Lasting Legacy: Anita Lang Retiring after 47 Years of Service
In June of 1966, the Supreme Court established Miranda Rights, the National Organization for Women (NOW) was founded and the ABC soap opera “Dark Shadows” premiered.
And on June 13, 1966, Anita Lang started her first day of work at Stevens, as a secretary inside the Alumni Office, at $85 a week. Dressed in proper hat and gloves, this teenager joined a college that had not yet opened to undergraduate women. President Jess H. Davis led the school, along with an all-male Board of Trustees.
“Stevens has had seven presidents; I’ve worked for four of them,” Lang says.
Lang became the first woman and first non-alumnus appointed executive director of the Stevens Alumni Association, in 1980. Now, after 47 years with the SAA, one of Stevens’ longest serving employees who has worked under 34 SAA presidents is retiring.
Lang retired on June 30, 2013, but will work as a consultant twice a week for at least the next two years. Among her duties will be working with the Old Guard, SAA Executive Committee business and Alumni Weekend. Michael Smullen, currently SAA associate executive director, will become executive director as of July 1.
Over five decades, so many alumni say, Lang has been a treasure trove of knowledge about Stevens’ alumni and history—and a talented professional who connected alumni across the decades.
When one thought of the SAA, no matter what changed, Lang was always there—a gracious presence who made every alumnus feel special, says Past SAA President Marty Valerio ’68.
“She devoted her life,” he said. Knowledge of Stevens’ alumni and the university’s history is so ingrained in her, he says. So is how to treat people.
“She has a personal connection to so many people,” Valerio says. “She’s a very caring person. I’m going to miss her. Her spirit will always be there.”
Past SAA President and Stevens Professor Dick Magee ’63 called Lang’s 47 years of service “unprecedented.”
“Anita has always addressed the needs of Stevens and the SAA professionally, with integrity and with an unyielding commitment to excellence,” Magee says. “It is hard to envision the SAA without Anita.”
The SAA and institute honored Lang with a retirement celebration on Saturday, Sept. 7, on campus.
One recent May afternoon, Lang took a few moments inside her Howe Center office to reflect on her 47 years at Stevens.
“I grew up here,” she says.
A graduate of the Katharine Gibbs School, this Guttenberg, N.J., resident first worked for Larry Minck ’53 and with Harold R. Fee ’20, then the SAA’s executive director. She rose to administrative director in 1976 and, upon Minck’s retirement as executive director, was encouraged to apply for the job. Undergraduate women had only been on campus since 1971 and few women held management positions at that time. But a group of alumni encouraged her and were very supportive.
As executive director, she has been a guiding force behind The Stevens Indicator, from advising on story selection and design to her well-known copy editing skills.
But her main mission has always been alumni relations and the many events that she has guided over the years. Among the most memorable was “Op Sail”—the Operation Sail events in 1976, 1986 and 1992—that saw Alumni Weekend coincide with the Tall Ships parade of ships from around the world coming to New York Harbor. The 1976 Bicentennial event drew about 10,000 people to campus.
“It was pandemonium, but it was controlled pandemonium,” she says with a smile.
Events like these were huge volunteer efforts, and alumni came out in force to help, she says. From these many hours of work came lasting friendships.
Nina Rogacki Pepe ’84, the longtime Alumni Weekend chair, says that Lang’s long ties to Stevens helped her provide the needed sense of history and support for big events like Alumni Weekend. So does her character.
“Anita infuses a positive energy into each endeavor. She leads a staff that is equally committed to providing a meaningful reunion experience to each and every alum and significant other,” Pepe said. Lang once lamented that she never had time to plant her beloved tomato plants until after Alumni Weekend.
“I hope that, in her retirement, Anita will have the time to nurture her garden as she nurtured the Alumni Association for so many years!” Pepe says.
As executive director, Lang did a good bit of traveling, to alumni clubs around the U.S., on alumni tours to Europe, and, most memorably, to Ecuador with the Class of 1953, to visit then Ecuadoran President Leon Febres Cordero ’53.
Adventures aside, when Lang is asked about her favorite part of the job, it’s always the relationships.
“It went beyond working relationships; we became friends,” she says.
Stevens has changed over the years, most notably with the presence of undergraduate women and the undergraduate student body becoming more international, she says. But some things remain constant.
“I think that the world has changed,” Lang says. “But if you spend time getting to know the young graduates, they’re not so different from those of the past. Everyone’s concerned about a career. And they get a good education here at Stevens.”
Looking to the future, Lang hopes to volunteer at a hospital or, most fittingly for this book lover, at her local library. She’ll have more time to cook, garden and meet with friends.
And she’ll make time to savor her many Stevens friendships.
“I’ll miss some of the interactions, but the nice part is, I expect to continue to see many of the alumni and their families,” she says. “I anticipate that many of these friendships will continue.”