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Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, a 1949 Columbia Business School graduate and a member School’s Board of Overseers, died on June 3 due to complications from viral pneumonia. He was 89. The senior senator from New Jersey, Lautenberg had a long, accomplished career in both the private and public sectors.
He also had a profound, positive impact on Columbia Business School. Senator Lautenberg had been a member of the Board of Overseers since 1991 and had served on the Social Enterprise Program’s Advisory Board. He was honored twice at the School’s Annual Dinner — once for his Board of Overseers leadership and once for his leadership in government. In 2001, Senator Lautenberg established the Frank R. Lautenberg Professorship of Ethics and Corporate Governance at Columbia Business School. The inaugural and current Lautenberg Professor is Ray Horton.
“Senator Lautenberg’s record of achievement in business and government stands as an inspiration not only to the Columbia Business School students who follow in his academic footsteps, but also to current and future generations of leaders,” said Dean Glenn Hubbard. “We at the School have been truly privileged to be able to count on his steadfast support and involvement, and he will be missed.”
Born in 1924 in Paterson, NJ, Lautenberg was the son of Polish and Russian immigrants who came to the United States through Ellis Island. He served in the US Army Signal Corps in Europe during World War II and later received a BS in economics from Columbia Business School on the GI Bill. Lautenberg then co-founded the nation’s first payroll services company, Automatic Data Processing (ADP), with two childhood friends. He served as chairman and CEO of ADP until he was elected to the Senate in 1982. Today, ADP is one of the largest computing services and payroll administration companies in the world.
Lautenberg served five terms in Congress. After his first election to the Senate, he was re-elected in 1988 and 1994. Following a brief retirement, he was voted back to the chamber again in 2003 and he remained there until his death. In his Senate career, Lautenberg fought for gun control, drunk driving penalties, the protection of the environment, national security and human rights, antiterrorism measures, transportation funding, and economic growth. One of his signature legislative efforts was the ban on smoking on planes. He was an advocate of high-speed railways in the United States and of funding for mass transit. He wrote laws to end the dumping of sludge and plastic in the ocean, track medical waste, initiate a national pollution prevention program, and give citizens the right to know about toxic pollutants released into their communities’ water, soil, and air. He also helped enact the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 and raise the drinking age throughout the country to 21. At the time of his death, he was the last surviving World War II veteran in the Senate.
In the nonprofit sector, Senator Lautenberg was the founder of the Lautenberg Cancer Research Center, a member of the US Holocaust Council, and a former chairman of the National United Jewish Appeal, among other things. He was also a former president of the Association of Data Processing Services Organizations and a past commissioner of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Senator Lautenberg resided in Cliffside Park, NJ, and is survived by his wife, Bonnie Englebardt Lautenberg, four children, two stepchildren, and 13 grandchildren.