The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon

Search Results

Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Nancy Lane

Corporate executive Nancy Lane was born in Boston, Massachusetts to Gladys Lane and Samuel Lane. She received her B.S. degree in public relations and journalism from Boston University in 1962, and went on to earn her M.P.A. degree at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1975, Lane completed the Program for Management Development at Harvard Business School in Boston.

Lane began her career at the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company. She then worked as a project manager for the National Urban League, where she developed the Black Executive Exchange Program. From 1972 to 1973, Lane was the second vice president and head of executive recruitment at Chase Manhattan Bank in New York. She became the vice president of personnel at New York Off-Track Betting Corporation in 1973, before joining the administration department at the Johnson & Johnson Products corporate headquarters in New Brunswick, New Jersey in 1975. The following year, Lane was named vice president of human resources and administration, making her the first woman to assume the role. She also served on the board of directors of Ortho Diagnostic Systems, a division of Johnson & Johnson. She was the first female vice president, and first African American, to sit on Johnson & Johnson’s management board. Lane served as vice president of government affairs at Johnson & Johnson’s corporate headquarters until her retirement in 2000.

Lane held several board positions, including on the board of governors at Rutgers University, the National Board of Directors for the NAACP. She also served as the lead NGO representative at the United Nations. She also served on the board of Bloomfield College, the board of trustees for Freedom House, the board of directors for the SEED Foundation, and the board of Studio Museum in Harlem. She was as an advisor for The International Review of African American Art, as well as a co-chair of the Stieglitz Society at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. In 1987, Lane received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Boston University, which is the highest honor bestowed upon an alumnus.

Nancy Lane was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 28, 2016.

Accession Number




Interview Date


Last Name


Maker Category
Middle Name



Boston University

University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs

Harvard Business School

Roxbury Memorial High School

Henry Lee Higginson Elementary School

First Name


Birth City, State, Country




Favorite Season




Favorite Vacation Destination

New York City

Favorite Quote

It's Up To Me.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Interview Description
Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York



Favorite Food

Almost Everything

Short Description

Corporate executive Nancy Lane (1944 - ) worked for Johnson & Johnson Products for over twenty-five years, and also served on the boards of Rutgers University, Bloomfield College, the NAACP and the Studio Museum in Harlem.


North American Representative of the International Union of Students

National Urban League, Westinghouse Broadcasting Company

National Urban League

Chase Manhattan Bank

New York City Off-Track Betting Corporation

Johnson & Johnson

Favorite Color


Timing Pairs

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Nancy Lane's interview</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Nancy Lane lists her favorites</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Nancy Lane describes her mother's family background</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Nancy Lane describes her father's family background</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Nancy Lane talks about how her parents met</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Nancy Lane describes her earliest childhood memory</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Nancy Lane remembers her neighbors in Boston, Massachusetts, pt. 1</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Nancy Lane talks about her parents' careers</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Nancy Lane describes her early personality</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Nancy Lane remembers her neighbors in Boston, Massachusetts, pt. 2</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Nancy Lane recalls working at the Boston Public Library</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Nancy Lane describes her undergraduate education</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Nancy Lane talks about her early understanding of race</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Nancy Lane remembers studying abroad in Norway, pt. 1</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Nancy Lane remembers studying abroad in Norway, pt. 2</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Nancy Lane remembers her experiences in Austria</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Nancy Lane describes the start of her business career</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Nancy Lane recalls working at an educational organization in the Netherlands</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Nancy Lane remembers joining the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Nancy Lane talks about the changes in her personality and aspirations</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Nancy Lane remembers her master's degree program at the University of Pittsburgh</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Nancy Lane remembers moving to Greenwich Village in New York City</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Nancy Lane remembers creating the National Urban League's Black Executive Exchange Program</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Nancy Lane describes the National Urban League's Black Executive Exchange Program</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Nancy Lane describes her career at the National Urban League</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Nancy Lane recalls becoming an executive recruiter at Chase Manhattan Bank</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Nancy Lane describes her experiences in Chase Manhattan Bank's executive dining room</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Nancy Lane remembers joining the New York City Off-Track Betting Corporation</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Nancy Lane recalls the executive training program at Harvard Business School</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Nancy Lane remembers joining the board of the Studio Museum in Harlem</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Nancy Lane talks about the Studio Museum in Harlem</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Nancy Lane talks about the founding of the Studio Museum in Harlem</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Nancy Lane remembers the directors of the Studio Museum in Harlem, pt. 1</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Nancy Lane remembers the directors of the Studio Museum in Harlem, pt. 2</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Nancy Lane talks about the leadership of Thelma Golden at the Studio Museum in Harlem</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Nancy Lane describes the Studio Museum in Harlem Gala</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Nancy Lane talks about her role at the Studio Museum in Harlem</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Nancy Lane remembers joining Johnson and Johnson Products</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Nancy Lane recalls becoming the first female vice president at Johnson and Johnson Products</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Nancy Lane talks about her civic engagement in New York City</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Nancy Lane describes the highlights of her career at Johnson and Johnson Products</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Nancy Lane reflects upon her career at Johnson and Johnson Products</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Nancy Lane remembers the Chicago Tylenol murders</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Nancy Lane talks about her retirement from Johnson and Johnson Services, Inc.</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Nancy Lane talks about African American businessman H. Naylor Fitzhugh</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Nancy Lane reflects upon her legacy</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Nancy Lane shares her advice to African American youth</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Nancy Lane reflects upon her life and plans for the future</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Nancy Lane talks about her interest in art</a>







Nancy Lane remembers creating the National Urban League's Black Executive Exchange Program
Nancy Lane talks about her role at the Studio Museum in Harlem
So you work as project manager for the National Urban League--$$Right.$$--for, for about two years?$$Well you know, it was supposed to be for a year. They gave me the job of the century. I had an assignment they called the Summer Fellowship Program, so we know that African Americans who taught at historically black colleges [HBCUs] often had to teach subjects where they might not have had corporate experience- experiences themselves. So, for example, there was a professor who taught applied mathematics at Grambling [Grambling College; Grambling State University, Grambling, Louisiana], and that was when they said it was harder to make the, the team, the, the music team, the band, than it was to make the football team at Grambling. And, so, anyway, I guess they had so much--$$They had great--yes, sure.$$--talent in football. You know, and so on. So, anyway, my job was to visit the college campuses, interview faculty, and talk to them about spending summers in industry, and then, during the fall, work with corporations that were tied to the Urban League and talk to them about hiring for a summer one of these faculty members; and the pitch was, hire this person. Help them expand the program and the curriculum at the college that they're at, and when you go back to that college to recruit, you've got your person on the campus who knows the students, who knows your corporation, and who will be your, your onsite recruiter for you. And so--and then what would happen, so my job was in the fall to go to the college campuses, in the winter to work with the corporations in terms of making matches; and then in the summer, visit the professors on assignment. How is it going? What did you like? What would you like to have that would be a different kind of experience? And to say to the companies, can we sign you up again for next year? So I did that for the Urban League, and I guess it was maybe after two years--you see, I couldn't leave the job. I mean, you would agree. That was a job. You're making a contribution to others. You're meeting faculty, et cetera, and so many areas. The head of the business department at Morehouse [Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia] had never worked in industry at that time. He was an economist, wonderful man, Dr. E.B. Williams, wonderful. People who know Morehouse know him. And, and so anyway (background noise), what happened was that I said to myself, but when these professors come back to their campus, they're going to have new ideas about what should happen, but their ideas might meet some resistance. What can I do to make a difference for them and also to ensure that the programs are going to be effective? And so I thought about it, and in those days, executive in residence programs did not include black colleges, and so I created what became known--and ran for forty-five years--I created what became known as the Black Executive Exchange Program, and so with that program--it's the joy of my life--with that program, we would, you know, when I--when it was just an idea, I said to black executives I knew--of course, mostly males in those days in the '60s [1960s]--I said to them, "How would you like to spend some time on a college campus?" And they said, "Well, we'd like to, but I wouldn't dare leave my job for any period of time." "You wouldn't leave for a month?" "I wouldn't leave for a week," they'd tell me, "It might not be there when I got back." And so I then thought to myself, how do I get around that problem?$And so as a board member, what is your role in supporting the evolution of the museum [Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, New York]?$$So my focus has been in different areas. As I mentioned, I was chair of the board, and I think--and before that, too, my focus has been on recruiting talent for our board; and so people sometimes would give us names, and other times, it would be somebody I would see. So I don't want to say the name, but I was chatting once with someone, and, and they said, "Gee, have you ever recruited this person," and the guy was standing right there beside us, "for your board?" I said, "I'm embarrassed to say no, but we'll go after it now." A longtime board member now. And so we--so I was interested in, in recruiting people. [HistoryMaker] Carol Sutton Lewis heads our nominating committee, and I serve on that committee, so that's one of the areas that I'm focusing on. I'm focusing on the, the building campaign. Yeah. Master, master--major, major, major, major.$$When will the--will--when do you imagine that will come about?$$They tell us to say soon.$$(Laughter).$$(Laughter) But you know that our architect is David Adjaye, who's just done the--$$Yes.$$--Smithsonian [National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, D.C.], and we've had great support from a number of organizations and people here in New York City [New York, New York], and so we're very excited about it. And so we said, where should we be with our new building? And we said, where else but in our current location? So we'll be taking down the new--the current building; and at the suggestion also of [HistoryMaker] Theaster Gates, we are going to incorporate a work of art that's reflective of the old building, our current building in--as a piece of art--in our new building.$$Huh.$$Yes. And so that's going to be incorporated into the design and on exhibition permanently. And there are a couple of other pieces that I expect will always be up such as our 'Me/We' piece--that neon piece, beautiful piece that Glenn Ligon did; and so, so I'm focused on the building, and I'm also focused on the acquisitions for our collection. And I'm so proud of our committee. We have a great committee, and I would say we have about thirty-odd people on that committee; and the joy is that when Thelma [HistoryMaker Thelma Golden] and the museum staff present work to us to consider purchasing, and we always purchase one work from each of the artists in residence, by the way, so that we will always have their early days, like Kehinde Wiley. We have--$$Yes.$$--early purse--piece from Kehinde. And Kehinde, when he was an artist in residence--$$I remember.$$--and he also lived in the--in his studio because times were tough for Kehinde then, and now look at him, you know, international star. But, anyway, so, so my focus is also on building our collection; and the committee not only--the funds that they contribute each year are the funds that we use to purchase work, and then so often at our meetings--and we had one about three weeks ago--what will happen is, we don't have enough money to buy something, and someone will say (gesture), "Let me buy that and contribute it to the museum," and so that happens repeatedly at our meetings, and I think of our permanent collection, I've never asked Thelma, but I think it's fair to say--I'm a little biased--but I think it's fair to say a good 30 percent of that permanent collection has come through our acquisitions committee, so that's just been wonderful.$$And so are all purchases made by the museum approved by the board?$$Technically. And like other museums. You know, there's a meeting at which Thelma--when she does her annual report, she will then report to them on the acquisitions and what's the--additions to the collection, which includes not only those we purchase but work that have been donated to the museum by others who care about us, our mission, and who admire the artists that we do.$$Excellent.$$And so that's when we take an official vote.$$Excellent.