Nancy Lane: Celebrating and Honoring a Pioneer
Nancy Lane, 1976. Image courtesy: Johnson & Johnson Archives
It is with great sadness that the Kilmer House blog notes the passing of Nancy Lane, one of Johnson & Johnson’s pioneering women and a pioneering African American leader who made an impact at Johnson & Johnson and in the community. She was the first woman vice president, and the first African American woman vice president at Johnson & Johnson.
Born in Boston, MA, Nancy Lane was a fervent believer in education and the opportunities it unlocks. She earned an undergraduate degree in public relations and journalism from Boston University in 1962 – having spent some time studying in Norway during that program – and earned her Master’s in Public Administration at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1975, Lane completed the Program for Management Development at the Harvard University Graduate School of Business Administration and remained an active alumna of that institution throughout her life.
Early in her career, as a project manager at the National Urban League, Nancy created the Black Executive Exchange Program, a program that Johnson & Johnson participated in. The program brought African American leaders in business to lecture in college classrooms as visiting professors at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other colleges and universities to further enhance students’ educational experience, provide them with role models and prepare them for careers.
While Nancy Lane was Vice President in charge of executive and MBA recruiting at one of the major banks in Manhattan, she was recruited to Johnson & Johnson. She joined the company in 1975. At the time, New Brunswick, New Jersey (where Johnson & Johnson remains headquartered) was quite a change from the fast paced world of Wall Street, and she was making the change from finance to healthcare. In an interview for an internal company podcast at the beginning of 2020, Nancy recalled: “My first day at Johnson & Johnson…I said to myself, because it was such a change from working on Wall Street, I said, ‘Nancy, you will go anywhere for a position. And then I said, Oh no, no Nancy, you will go anywhere for an opportunity.’” When she joined the company, she was one of very few women – and very few African American employees – in a leadership position at Johnson & Johnson. Her new position (and pioneering role) at Johnson & Johnson proved to be a perfect fit and she remained with the company for the rest of her career.
From 1976 to 1988, Nancy served as Vice President, Human Resources and Administration at Ortho Diagnostic Systems, Inc., at that time an operating unit in Johnson & Johnson’s Med Tech business, and she joined the Ortho Diagnostic Systems board of directors, becoming the first African American woman in Johnson & Johnson history – and the second woman overall -- to serve on a Johnson & Johnson operating company management board.
After 1988, Nancy was promoted to a corporate role, serving first as Director of Corporate Affairs and then as a vice president in Corporate Government Affairs, before retiring from Johnson & Johnson in 2000. During her long career at Johnson & Johnson she mentored many employees and future Johnson & Johnson leaders.
Nancy Lane (right) and Johnson & Johnson CEO James E. Burke (left), 1970s. Image courtesy: Johnson & Johnson Archives
A self-confessed history buff, Johnson & Johnson’s long heritage of innovation and citizenship intrigued Nancy and aligned with her own philosophy and lifelong practice of giving back to the community.
Nancy Lane served on many boards during her lifetime, including the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Board of Governors of Rutgers University, the National Board of the NAACP, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, CATALYST and The Women’s Forum, among others.
In keeping with her commitment to broadening educational opportunities and innovation, she was a past member of the board of directors of the SEED Foundation, the nation’s first college-preparatory, tuition-free boarding school for underserved students. A true pioneer in Johnson & Johnson history, her legacy remains in the programs she created, the organizations she supported, and the many people she mentored.