1987 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"There’s a great potential implicit in the unused elasticity of the individual."
Born of immigrant parents in 1919, Eugene Lang grew up in New York City. During the Great Depression, he attended public schools, and at age 15 was admitted as a scholarship student to Swarthmore College. An economics major, he graduated in 1938 and was employed as a writer of business reports and as the production planner for an aircraft parts company while earning an MS business degree from Columbia University. He also took mechanical engineering courses at the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute.
In 1952, Lang founded REFAC Technology Development Corporation. For more than 60 years, he pursued his business career in the United States and abroad, creating diverse manufacturing ventures based on new products and innovative technologies. He became recognized internationally as having pioneered licensing and technology transfer as a practical means for small American manufacturers to establish their business interests in foreign markets. Reflecting on his accomplishments, Forbes magazine characterized him as the "quintessential entrepreneur" and Nation's Business as "a father of innovation." An active protagonist of small business interests, he received the government's "E" Award from President Kennedy as well as commendations for distinguished service on seven overseas trade development and policy missions of the Commerce and State Departments.
Since establishing the Eugene M. Lang Foundation in 1963, Lang increasingly directed himself to philanthropy, mainly in education. In 1981, he created the now nationwide "I Have a Dream" program, which provides sustained personalized guidance and support to many thousands of disadvantaged children. In 2001, Lang established "Project Pericles," which works with colleges and universities to counter the declining participation of young Americans in the democratic process.
Lang established the Eugene M. Lang Center for Entrepreneurship at the Columbia University Business School. We was designated a "Point of Light" by President Bush, and President Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, this country's highest civilian award.