A Liberal Arts Lineage
Lane Family Legacy Embodies Generations of Teaching and Learning at F&M
Tucked away in the heart of the Franklin & Marshall campus, the biology library in the former Fackenthal Laboratories was a quiet and secluded room—the perfect spot for biology majors to study. But in the mid-1980s, it was especially meaningful to a geology major who often journeyed there after taking classes in the nearby Pfeiffer Science Complex.
Melissa Lane ’87 spent countless hours in that library, her peaceful refuge from crowded study areas on campus. More significantly, she found working there comforting—always under the watchful eye of her first cousin twice removed, The Paul and Frances H. Reiff Professor of Biology Harry Lane ’28, whose vibrant portrait adorned one of the library’s walls. Commissioned by a group of F&M alumni in 1979 to honor the beloved professor’s legacy, the Ronald Sykes painting depicts Harry teaching an embryology class wearing his trademark bowtie and browline glasses.
“That room was such an important place for me,” says Melissa, now a senior scientist with the Planetary Science Institute (PSI) in Arizona. “I used to sit there and just let the knowledge sink in. I’d gaze up at the portrait and feel a connection. When I was struggling with an assignment, I’d think, ‘If he can be a professor, I can do this.’ His presence was soothing and inspirational.”
Fackenthal has since been refurbished into the Patricia Harris Center for Business, Government & Public Policy, but it remains central to the Lane family story at F&M. Melissa’s sister, Cynthia Lane Krom ’80, joined the College’s faculty in 2011 as assistant professor of accounting and organizations. Her office is on the first floor of the Harris Center, just a stone’s throw from where Harry taught. It’s also where Cynthia spent much of her own time at F&M as an environmental science major.
Remarkably, both Harry and Cynthia made history as members of the F&M faculty—Harry as the first alumnus to earn an endowed chair at the College, and Cynthia as the first alumna to hold a tenure-track position. The Lane family tree at F&M also includes Harry’s first cousin once removed Darrell Lane ’59, father of Cynthia and Melissa, and Robert Lane ’61, Harry’s son. They’ve built a legacy of teaching and learning, bound together by a deep love for F&M and a passion for the liberal arts.
“It’s a wonderful feeling to have such a strong connection to a great school and to fold that back with our own family,” Melissa says. “We have blood lines, and also F&M lines.”
‘A Remarkable Teacher’
It’s a quiet summer morning in 2013, and for the first time in several years, Robert Lane visits F&M from his home in Camp Hill, Pa., to catch up with his second cousin Darrell, and Cynthia and Melissa. “I gave Cynthia and Melissa bone-crushing hugs, and Darrell a punch in the arm,” Robert says. “I’m so proud of them. It’s just a wonderful day.”
The reunion took place more than 60 years after Robert’s father joined the F&M faculty in 1949. Before coming to F&M, Harry Lane taught for a decade at Hershey Junior College as a professor of science. “I remember how welcoming and friendly everyone at F&M was when we moved from Hershey, Pa. It was really like a family,” Robert says. “We became involved with campus life, and my dad was a big supporter of F&M athletic teams.”
Robert enrolled at F&M to experience the liberal arts education with which he had become so familiar through his father. Although he majored in business, he says English classes might have helped him the most during his career as a senior vice president at PNC Bank in south central Pennsylvania.
“F&M gave me communication skills, confidence, the ability to organize my thoughts, and decision-making skills,” Robert says. “It was such a well-rounded education.”
It was exactly the type of education Harry Lane preached, recalls Darrell, who was a student in Harry’s anatomy and embryology class in the late 1950s
“He was a remarkable teacher, and he was passionate about the liberal arts,” Darrell says of Harry, who retired from F&M in 1972 and passed away in 1985. “His specialty was molding young people for careers in the healing arts. Even though we were related, he treated me the same as the other students. He was a tough professor, but also very funny. He’d keep you on your toes with his wonderful sense of humor.”
A native of Bowmansville in northeast Lancaster County, Darrell arrived at F&M as a recipient of the Paul J. Bickle Scholarship, a full-tuition grant of $600. Now retired from a 40-year medical career that began in the U.S. Army and continued at local hospitals, he says he chose the College because it had a good record of preparing students for medical school.
“I felt, and still feel, that F&M has the most wonderful faculty,” Darrell says. “All the professors I had were first class—especially Harry. I felt blessed beyond belief to go to such a terrific school not far from home.”
A New Type of Meaning
Inside her office in the Harris Center, Cynthia’s eyes widen in disbelief as she points to the hallway. “My college adviser’s office was right there, right across the hall. I can see it now!” she says. “Sitting here looking out that door is a very strange sensation. Sometimes, I don’t think it can be true.”
Cynthia began a new chapter in the Lane legacy at F&M when she joined F&M’s Department of Business, Organizations & Society two years ago. After graduating from the College, she worked in occupational health and safety for five years before earning her MBA at Farleigh Dickinson University and her Ph.D. from the University at Albany while building more than two decades of teaching experience. She's noticed many changes at F&M since returning to campus.
“Everything’s the same, and nothing’s the same,” says the professor. “I miss George and Martha [two large, nicknamed water towers in Buchanan Park]. But the Steinman College Center is still here, and so is the Protest Tree.” So is the room in Dietz Hall she called home as a senior—the very same room her father, Darrell, lived in as a first-year student during the 1950s.
“I’ve dreamed of coming back to F&M as a faculty member for many years,” says Cynthia, who compares her multifaceted connection to F&M to peeling layers off an onion. “When I was a student, I was here for me. Now I’m here for the students. It feels so amazing to be on campus, which now has a new type of meaning to me.”
The College has always held deep meaning for her sister Melissa, too, because it’s where she discovered her passion. She intended to follow a pre-med track at F&M, but plans changed when she took a geology course on a whim. “I was encouraged to take a geology course by my sophomore year roommate, Mary Cademartori ’87. The last thing I needed was another lab course. But I took it and found an immediate love.”
That love eventually led her to an exciting career in planetary science. In recent years, she has explored thermal emission spectroscopy and its potential for mineral identification on Mars. She also is a participating scientist on the team of the Mars Odyssey Thermal Emission Imaging System
“My entire career was laid down on my experience in the geosciences department at F&M,” Melissa says. “I didn’t know about the department’s national reputation until I got to graduate school, but I did know that the professors cared about you and taught you to think critically. No matter what you study at F&M, you’ll be prepared for anything.”
That’s the same liberal arts philosophy embodied by her cousin Harry, whose portrait now hangs in a seminar room in the Barshinger Life Sciences & Philosophy Building—where the Department of Biology moved after leaving Fackenthal in 2008. The painting is a constant reminder of the professor’s contributions and legacy, which live on through his family as well as generations of F&M alumni.
“My dad was a real person, down to earth, and he loved every minute of his teaching at F&M,” Robert says. “He sincerely cared about every one of his students.”
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