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Northwestern Professor Lawrence Gene Lavengood Dies at Age 82

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July 18, 2006

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Lawrence Gene Lavengood, 82, of Evanston, professor emeritus of business history at Northwestern University, died July 12 following a brief illness. He touched his family with comfort and love, his students with intelligence and curiosity, his community with passion and commitment and all who came into his presence with humor and joy.

He was born June 30, 1924 in Tulsa, Okla., where he was influenced by the effects of the depression and racial tensions in the town by his high school principal father, his two younger sisters and his social mother. In 1941 he enrolled at Tulane University. He transferred to the University of Chicago where he earned bachelor's and Ph.D. degrees. While there, he filtered his southern youth through northern lenses and began to develop the sensitivity for social involvement that dictated most of his life's activities. While at the University of Chicago he met his wife, Gloria, with whom he enjoyed 44 years of married life until her death in 1991. They had four children and lived in Evanston. 

In 1953 he begin teaching on the faculty of Northwestern University, a career that lasted 36 years, culminating in a faculty position in the Policy and Environment Department of the Kellogg School of Management. While at Kellogg, Mr. Lavengood also taught classes on management's social and ethical dimensions, bringing history and the humanities to bear on business, and anticipating trends that would gain currency in management education decades later.

He garnered the admiration, devotion, respect and friendship of students, fellow faculty and deans. The “Lavengood Award” is given every year to the outstanding Kellogg School teacher in his honor.

He retired in 1994 and maintained close associations with the Kellogg School, teaching an occasional class, traveling to Israel as a visiting professor and editing papers. Later years were spent in a quiet, peaceful existence entertaining old friends, neighbors and students, visiting grandchildren and absorbing a “life well lived.”

He is preceded in death by his beloved wife Gloria and his son-in-law Walter Dumas. He is survived by his children Jessica (Larry) Lettow, Abigail (the late Walter) Dumas, Timothy (Karen) Lavengood and Rachel (Ann) Lavengood; his grandchildren Christopher Lettow, Jeffrey Lettow, Sally Lavengood and Maggie Lavengood; and his great-granddaughter Reese Lettow.

Internment is private. A memorial service will be held at 1:30 p.m. Saturday (July 22) at Alice S. Millar Chapel, 1870 Sheridan Road, Evanston (847-491-7256). 

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Evanston Community Foundation, 1007 Church St., Suite 108, Evanston, Ill. 60201.

Comments by Dipak Jain, dean of the Kellogg School: “Gene was a man of tremendous talents, beloved for his gifts as a teacher and a scholar, as well as for his graciousness and great humor. He was simply a joy to be around and a great friend. His influence on me is nearly indescribable, as it was for so many other Kellogg faculty. I've always felt that the Lavengood Outstanding Professor of the Year Award was appropriate not only because it allowed us to recognize wonderful teaching in his honor every year, but because it also gave us all a chance to reflect on the quality of the life he led. His legacy extends beyond the impact he had on the lives of his colleagues and students, and includes the inspired leadership role he took in advancing race relations at Northwestern and in the Evanston community.”

Topics: People