Being a vice president and serving on corporate boards made Nancy Lane an indispensable mover and shaker. And these appointments were as diversified as their physical locations, but mainly in New York City.
Residents of Harlem remember her leadership at the Studio Museum where, as in other places, her dedication and insight were highly regarded. Lane died on March 28 in New York City. She was 88.
She was born on Sept. 3, 1933, in Boston to Samuel Madden Lane and Gladys (Pitkin) Lane, both of whom were successful professionals—her father employed at American Airlines and her mother for the
Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In an interview with HistoryMakers in 2016, Lane said her journey in higher education was at Boston University where in 1962 she earned a B.S. degree in public relations and journalism. Later at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs she received a M.P.A. degree. It should be noted that while she was an undergraduate she attended the University of Oslo in Norway and spent time in Austria as a representative of the International Union of Students.
In 1975 she completed the Program for Management Development at Harvard Business School. It was at the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company that she began her odyssey in the corporate world and then worked as a project manager for the National Urban League, where her ingenuity led to the creation of the Black Executive Exchange Program. And this was just the beginning of a long productive connection with major businesses and institutions through the early ’70s, including Chase Manhattan Bank, New York Off-Track Betting, and the administration department at Johnson & Johnson Products. In 1976, a year after Harvard, she was named vice president of human resources and administration at Johnson & Johnson, the first woman to hold this position. And she quickly moved up the ladder at the company becoming vice president of government affairs, which she held until her retirement in 2000.
Besides the time she spent in the corporate realm, Lane was also on the board of governors at Rutgers University, and on the National Board of Directors for the NAACP. And there was a stint as the lead NGO representative at the U.N. In 1987, she received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Boston University, the highest honor bestowed upon an alumnus. She also completed a year-long graduate program in art history.
While she left no immediate survivors, a number of artists were recipients of her guidance and support, and many of them exhibited at the Studio Museum during her stay there, such as Lorna Simpson, Carrie Mae Weems, Sam Gilliam and Elizabeth Catlett. She was there when plans began to replace the museum’s building with a more expansive site on 125th Street.