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Lang Family Commitment, Challenge to Renovate Music Building Inspires Swarthmore College Board of Managers to Follow Their Lead

February 27th, 2019 A combined $9 million will revitalize this iconic space

The Lang Music Building is home to some of the most stunning spaces on campus. The concert hall is sublime with excellent acoustics, offering breathtaking and unimpeded views of the Crum Woods and beautiful natural light. The teak-floored lobby gleams and serves as a warm contrast to its concrete-clad exterior. Designed by Mitchell/Giurgola Architects when modernism was still the reigning style in the country, it was completed in 1973 and named for longtime College benefactor Eugene Lang ‘38, H’81, whose support made the building possible.

And yet, a closer look reveals the toll the subsequent 46 years have taken. Heating and cooling systems, original to the building, have reached the end of their useful lives. Practice and rehearsal space, especially for large groups such as the Gamelan Semara Santi and Chinese Music Ensemble, is limited at best. Exterior concrete steps are crumbling. The Holtkamp organ, located on the concert stage, has been inoperable for years. Aside from discrete examples of essential building maintenance, the space has had no significant renovation since it opened.

Lang Music Lobby

The lobby of the Lang Music Building.

A full renewal and replacement program to address the Lang Music Building’s infrastructure and departmental needs is estimated to cost $9 million. Although still the pulsing heart of the College’s Music Department, the truth is that it is one of several campus buildings that require substantial upgrades and repair.

Managers Jane ‘67 and Lucy ‘03 Lang toured the building last Friday afternoon. At the Board of Managers meeting the following morning, Jane announced that she and her niece Lucy would designate $7 million from her father Eugene Lang’s Fund for the Future to upgrade and renovate the building. They also issued a challenge of their own: if the College could raise an additional $1 million dollars, they would give $1 million more, raising the total to the full $9 million.

Their decision energized their fellow Managers, who erupted into applause and gave them a standing ovation. Emeritus Manager Samuel Hayes ‘57 then surprised the group by pledging $100,000 to the renovation effort. In quick succession, John Chen ’76, P’19, David Singleton ’68, P’99, David Bradley ’75, H’11, and David McElhinny ’75, P’17 each committed the same, raising half of the challenge amount.

“Jane and I are deeply grateful to my grandfather, Gene Lang, for the legacy of giving,” said Lucy Lang. “It is our family's privilege to channel his philanthropy and spirit through this gift of renewal for the Lang Music Building, which has brought joy to so many members of the Swarthmore community and beyond. Our family is also greatly moved by the spontaneous response of our friends and fellow board members, Sam Hayes, John Chen, David Bradley, David Singleton, and Dave McElhinny, and their spouses, which so generously enhances this gift.”

“We are incredibly grateful for Jane and Lucy’s commitment to leading by example,” said President Valerie Smith. “We are all inspired by their love for the College and their desire to ensure that our students continue to enjoy a world-class liberal arts education.”

“I think we will look back at this moment when Jane and Lucy brought new energy to the Changing Lives, Changing the World Campaign as truly significant,” added Board Chair Salem Shuchman ‘84, P’16, noting the campaign priority of creating vital spaces. “By making this commitment, the Lang family continues to demonstrate their faith in Swarthmore, in our students, and in all of us as stewards of this special institution.”

Over the years, facilities staff members have worked creatively to address some of the building's maintenance issues. In a 1993 Bulletin, then-mechanic foreman Tom Cochrane showed off a tool he designed to help repair a broken pipe under the building's floor, saving the College thousands of dollars.

 

The mood in the Music Department is understandably one of elation.

“My colleagues and I recently worked with the College’s facilities management team on a visionary plan to address the building’s essential needs and to re-imagine our space in light of our increasingly global music curriculum,” says Associate Professor and Chair of Music Jonathan Kochavi. “This incredible generosity is a game-changer. It will truly ensure that our gem, the Lang Music Building, will continue to serve us brilliantly for generations to come.”

The renovation, expected to be take place during the summer of 2020, will allow the College to:

  • Replace the building’s entire heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system, which will create three new zones of control in the concert hall, as well as the ability to properly humidify/dehumidify the building throughout the year to properly maintain instruments.  
  • Stabilize the climate conditions in the Underhill Music & Dance Library for maintenance of the collections.
  • Replace the roof.
  • Replace the 3rd and 4th floor restrooms, create accessible restrooms for the public, and replace the original piping throughout the building.
  • Modify and improve the concert hall egress routes.
  • Replace the front entrance and ADA doors.
  • Modify the Presser Room, currently an under-used rehearsal space, to create a flat-floored, acoustically separated rehearsal space with storage.
  • Restore the pipe organ following HVAC replacement.

From ensembles, rehearsals, classes, and lessons for credit, students from across the College’s academic disciplines actively participate in the Music Department’s curricular offerings. In the Class of 2018, more than 100 graduates - 25 percent of the class - took classes in music, not counting majors and minors. Each year, the department also hosts several dozen well-attended public recitals, concerts, and workshops which contribute to a vibrant and thriving regional arts scene engaging students, faculty, staff, and the wider community.

Chairs facing window in Underhill library

The renovation will stabilize climate conditions in the Underhill Music & Dance Library for maintenance of the collections .

Jane Lang, of Washington, D.C., is an attorney, arts philanthropist and producer. With her late husband Paul Sprenger, she founded the law firm of Sprenger and Lang, which specialized in plaintiffs' employment class action litigation. Her earlier professional history includes two years as general counsel to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Carter administration as well as four years with the D.C. law firm Steptoe & Johnson, where she was the firm's first female partner. Lang's current civic affiliations include serving as a trustee of The Eugene M. Lang Foundation. She is also founder and board chair emeritus of the Atlas Performing Arts Center, a multispace performing-arts facility in Washington, D.C. Lang earned a B.A. with distinction in history from Swarthmore and a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.


Lucy Lang is the executive director of the Institute for Innovation in Prosecution (IIP) at John Jay College, which brings together prosecutors, academics, law enforcement officials, and community leaders to examine and develop practical solutions to the critical issues facing the criminal justice system. Prior to joining IIP, Lang served as a Manhattan Assistant District Attorney for 12 years, most recently as special counsel for policy and projects and executive director of the DA’s in-house think tank, the Manhattan DA Academy.  She has also run Manhattan’s Intelligence Driven Prosecution Symposium and pioneered a first-of-its-kind college in prison class in which incarcerated students study criminal justice alongside prosecutors. She graduated with high honors in political science from Swarthmore and received her J.D. from Columbia Law School, where she has served as a lecturer-in-law. Lucy is also a Presidential Leadership Scholar.

Read about Swarthmore’s plans for the physical campus at lifechanging.swarthmore.edu.

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