17 Dec 2013

Robert Lane, Gray Is Green Founder

Robert E. Lane,  Founder of Gray Is Green

Robert E. Lane,
Founder of Gray Is Green

 Robert Lane, Founder of Gray Is Green

“Born in 1917, I was twelve when the stock market crashed in 1929, coming to intellectual adulthood during the Great Depression and the New Deal years. As the son of a sometime professor and Executive Director of the Welfare Council in New York City (1933-1943) and with my mother a progressive teacher and principal of elite private schools, I was further made sensitive to The Left.”


So begins the intellectual autobiographical sketch of Robert Lane, retired Yale Professor of Political Psychology and founder of Gray Is Green. His academic career at Harvard led him away from “the arid, math-centered study of economics” and toward “the ways psychologists went about their work.”  After describing his intellectual journey as a series of focal questions culminating in his books,  he quips, “At age 96, I am studying the theory and practice of immortality.”

Bob Lane is an activist, beginning his political memoir with: “This is a set of anecdotes from the life of a youth and man who was never at home in this world, always challenging authority while desperately wanting to be liked by that authority. In his privileged and sheltered life (private schools, educated at Harvard University and teaching all his professional life at Yale) this protected Timid Rebel tilted at both real and imaginary windmills…”

These anecdotes track decades of highlights  from a courageously out-spoken man who is also discerning about a time and place for below-the radar action.


 What matters now?

Bob Lane’s current question is: “The United States is in the midst of a critical transition from the Affluent Society to the Age of Climate Change. Markets and the centrality of businessmen will shrivel and science and scientists will become dominant. How will this transition change our institutions, values, and quality of life?”

And his unfolding response includes this: “The explicit and implicit ‘mission’ of individuals and societies will be collectivized as we move from a society devoted to want-satisfaction to one devoted to community survival….Can humans take advantage of this temporary fluidity to create institutions that cause the human personality to flourish? Worlds in Transition: From the Affluent Society to the Age of Climate Change? (forthcoming).”

As an inspirational elder, Bob Lane remains close to what matters now: founding Gray Is Green, supporting the project through ups and downs, staying close to our developing curriculum and next-stage outreach with older adult Americans. Through it all Bob Lane exudes vision, tenacity and wisdom-drenched rebelliousness.

In closing his Timid Rebel (TR) piece, Bob notes: “…with Executive Director Kath Schomaker, the new President of Gray Is Green, Rick Moody, applying skills and using contacts developed in his career with AARP, enlarged the Board, recruited new individual and retirement community members, and launched a new educational program.

From the sidelines, at age 95, TR cheered.”


Bob Lane launched Gray Is Green to inspire generations of older adults coming to grips with what really matters in the twenty-first Century. In this epoch that hosts us in later life, Gray Is Green is stretching to embody his vision.

We salute you, Bob!