Remembering Ralph Lane

The following was written by Dr. Jennifer E. Turpin, professor of sociology, and originally published in For the City & the World: Conversations in Catholic Studies and Social Thought.

Ralph Lane was a thinking man, a lifelong teacher and student, who cared profoundly about the real exchange of ideas and fearlessly confronted what it means to be fully human in a complex and conflicted world. Ralph and his wife Joan dedicated their lives to justice and peace, and to the mission of the University of San Francisco. We have been fortunate benefactors of their passion and commitment to these ideals.

Ralph was one of those few teachers who became a legend. Generations of students were exposed to social theory and practice through their classes with Ralph, who pioneered community engagement as a teaching method. Ralph recognized early on that San Francisco was an ideal social laboratory, which students could not only study but also one they could affect for the good. Ralph’s Catholic faith and his dedication to Catholic social teachings informed not just how he taught and what he wrote about, but who he was in relation to others and to the community. He always strove to achieve the common good and to serve those with the least social power. He and Joan supported others in their endeavors to do the same, and over the years they sponsored conferences on important social issues, supported the journal Peace Review: A Journal of Social Justice, and helped to found the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good.

In 2005, shortly before Ralph passed away, Joan and Ralph established The Joan and Ralph Lane Center for Catholic Social Thought and the Ignatian Tradition at USF. The center is dedicated to advancing the Catholic intellectual tradition with a focus on Catholic social thought throughout the Church and the world.