Joseph Lang ’63C, ’71G

When it comes to nearly every aspect of college athletics, Joseph Lang ’63C, ’71G has pretty much done it all. And he’s been doing it for more than half a century.

Lang came to St. John’s University as a freshman in the fall of 1959, and soon began to distinguish himself as a member of the track team. During his four years as a student-athlete he earned honors as the Metropolitan Intercollegiate Champion in both cross-country and the three-mile run. By the time he was ready to graduate with his B.A. in Mathematics from St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, he was honored with the McSweeney Award, presented to the graduating student-athlete who most typified the values of the University.

“My years at St. John’s were very special,” he recalled. “In addition to getting a great academic education, I was given the opportunity to develop the skills that would allow me to have a wonderful career. When I was a student my classmates and team members came from all over the New York City area, and we all got along without even thinking about it. We had goals, and we worked hard to reach those goals. That’s really the way it was back then.”

Currently Associate Athletic Director for Compliance at the University of the District of Columbia, Lang began his career at Christ the King High School in Queens (NY), where he taught Mathematics and served as Head Track and Field Coach. After six years he returned to St. John’s as Assistant Track and Field Coach, and in 1972 joined the staff of Georgetown University, where he remained until his retirement in 2004.

“I was hired at Georgetown as Assistant Track and Field Coach and Athletics Ticket Manager,” he said. “After two years I was named Head Coach, and later moved into administration in a variety of roles, finally spending my last 10 years as Director of Athletics. I had a wonderful time at Georgetown, and I like to think that I was able to make a difference for some of the people who I encountered along the way.”

There can never be any doubt that Lang has made a difference for others. During his time at Georgetown he coached 27 All-Americans, five American collegiate record holders, one world record holder and one Olympic athlete. He was twice named NCAA Cross Country District Coach of the Year and served as President of the BIG EAST Track Coaches Association, the United States Cross Country Coaches Association and the IC4A Track Coaches Association. He is a member of both the St. John’s University and Georgetown University Athletic Hall of Fame. 

Despite his exceptional achievements, this loyal alumnus has always appreciated the uniqueness of the St. John’s experience. Whether on the track, in the classroom or the administrative office, he has carried the Vincentian mission of reaching out to others through every phase of his life. It is a particular generosity of spirit that can be traced back to his connection to the University.

I’m very thankful for all that St. John’s did for me,” he said,

“and for the people of my generation, many of whom were the first in our families to go to college. In my family, that was me. St. John’s has always had as its mission to educate people without regard to any particular religion or color, just people who wanted an education and were willing to work hard to get it. St. John’s made a big difference for me and for so many people like me, and I’ve tried to do the same for others. It’s a way for me to show my appreciation to the university by keeping its mission alive. And it’s the right thing to do.”

In recognition of his many achievements over the past five decades, Lang was honored at the 2013 Alumni Convocation with the Alumni Outstanding Achievement Award. The award coincides with the 50th Anniversary of his undergraduate graduation from St. John’s, and represents the esteem in which the University has held him since his first days on campus.

“This is a great night to celebrate,” he acknowledged, “but it’s much more than that. I’m very grateful, and very humbled, to be recognized by the University that has meant so much for me. It’s a chance for me to look back on 50 years – half a century – and when I realize what I was able to accomplish because of what this University provided for me, it makes this award even more special. The University has served New York City very well and has continued to adapt to the changes that the city has gone through over the years. And through it all, St. John’s has remained true to its mission. I’m proud to be a part of this University, because I love St. John’s very much.”