Ralph Lane, Jr. (1923-2007)
Ralph taught in the USF Department of Sociology from 1958 until his retirement in 1988. Together with his wife, Joan, Ralph dedicated his life to justice and peace, and the mission of the University of San Francisco. His generous contributions as a professor and benefactor significantly shaped USF's history and mission of educating minds and hearts to change the world.
Ralph was born in 1923 in New York state where he lived for much of his youth, mostly in New Rochelle. During World War II he served in the US military in Europe. He received his A.B. and. M.A. degrees from Columbia University and a Ph.D. in sociology from Fordham University. He taught at Manhattan College (1949-1950) and at Fordham University (1948-1955).
Between 1955 and 1957 he served as cultural affairs officer at the American Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. There he met his wife, Joan, who was in Afghanistan working for the Asia Foundation. Ralph moved to the San Francisco Bay Area for Arabic language studies at the Monterey Institute. He joined the faculty at the University of San Francisco in 1958 where he remained until his retirement in 1988.
Ralph co-authored Sociology: An Introduction with Jack H. Curtis and John A. Coleman, SJ, a sociology textbook widely used throughout the 1960s and 70s. He was author of several scholarly articles in the area of cultural anthropology and sociology of religion. He served as the first president of the Association for the Sociology of Religion in 1971. Since retiring, Ralph published two volumes of poetry, and was at work on his third.
At USF Ralph was active in the formation of the Faculty Association, serving on the original six-person steering committee in 1975. He was a pioneer in the area of community-based learning founding the Student Western Addition Project (SWAP) in 1962. Through this program USF students provided health education and assistance, neighborhood cleanup and tutoring programs in the Western Addition neighborhood adjacent to USF. By 1968, SWAP was the largest student organization on campus with approximately 250 members. Throughout his tenure, Ralph was widely viewed as a figure of enormous integrity, social responsibility and justice by his students and colleagues.
The Lanes are generous benefactors to USF and the Bay Area arts and culture community. They have supported the international journal Peace Review: A Journal of Social Justice, the Ralph Lane Peace and Justice Essay Award at USF, and the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good at USF. In 1991 they hosted the international conference "100 Years of Catholic Social Teaching" at USF culminating in the publication of a volume by the same name edited by John A. Coleman, SJ. In 1996 they sponsored the conference "Rediscovering Justice: Awakening World Faiths to Address World Issues" featuring Nobel Peace Prize laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Betty Williams and culminating in a book edited by Joseph Angilella, SJ and Alan Ziajka. In 2004, they established the Joan and Ralph Lane Center for Catholic Studies and Social Thought at USF dedicated to advancing the Catholic intellectual tradition with a focus on Catholic social thought throughout the Church and the world.
With Joan by his side, Ralph led his life in full embrace of the world and culture in which he lived. As a scholar, poet, teacher, husband, father and philanthropist, his many accomplishments are a magnificent testament to his faith, intellect, integrity and belief in justice and peace. He leaves the world a better place by the way in which he lived.