Swarthmore grad in 1938 gives college $50 million
PHILADELPHIA — Swarthmore College has received a $50 million gift to strengthen collaboration between engineering students and those in other liberal arts disciplines.
The elite liberal arts college in suburban Philadelphia announced the gift, the largest in its the 148-year history on Saturday. The funds from philanthropist and Swarthmore alumnus Eugene Lang will be used to establish new engineering and science facilities.
Lang, 93, said his gift is meant, in part, as a continuation of the college's decision to include engineering as part of the curriculum in 1871. Swarthmore said it is one of just nine premier liberal arts colleges with a dedicated engineering program.
“My respect for money is in the things that it can accomplish,” said Lang, who graduated from Swarthmore in 1938 with a degree in economics. “The issue is how we use what we have to do things that are worth doing, to contribute in a way that makes things better.”
He said he hopes his gift will inspire acts of philanthropy in others.
The college said Lang's gift will allow Swarthmore to foster interdisciplinary connections among students and faculty in engineering and the arts, the sciences, humanities, and the social sciences.
Swarthmore College President Rebecca Chopp said Lang's generosity and vision will ensure the purpose and future of the college and the mark its graduates make in the world.
“This is philanthropy as an investment in the future, as an investment in the students,” she said.
Lang, a chairman emeritus of Swarthmore's managing board, founded the I Have a Dream Foundation in 1981 to provide college scholarships for underprivileged students. In 2001, he founded Project Pericles, a nonprofit that encourages civic engagement among college students.
He retired in 1997 as chairman of REFAC Technology Development Corp., which he founded in 1952. That year, he gave Swarthmore $30 million — then the largest gift ever to a private liberal arts college — to support a variety of academic programs, financial aid, campus improvements and performing arts and music facilities.
Before his historic 1997 gift, he had given about $20 million to the college over the previous three decades.
Lang also has made multimillion-dollar donations to The New School's undergraduate liberal arts college, named Eugene Lang College, and the Eugene M. Lang Center for Entrepreneurship at Columbia University.