LAX, Frances Reiner, a well-known Southern NJ philanthropist, community leader and voter rights activist, passed away on January 19th at her home at Medford Leas, Medford, NJ. She was 90 years old. Born and raised in Steubenville, OH, Fran was the third and last surviving child of Samuel and Minnie Reiner.
She attended Goucher College and in 1944 received a B.A. in economics from Bryn Mawr College. While in college, she attended a summer program in Mexico with the Experiment in International Living that sparked Fran’s lifelong interest in cultural exchange, Latin America and travel. In 1946, she earned an M.A. in Latin American history from Radcliffe Graduate School of Harvard University and was working on her PhD when she met her soon to be husband.
It was in Cambridge, MA that she met Harvard law student, Stephen Girard Lax of Philadelphia who had just returned from serving in World War II in Europe as a Captain in the Infantry. They were married in 1947 and moved to Washington D.C. where Steve practiced law. Fran became involved with the League of Women Voters at the national level and discovered her love of politics and voter initiatives.
Fran and Steve had four sons and settled in Haddonfield, NJ where Steve co-founded GL Electronics, which later became SL Industries (NYSE MKT: SLI) Fran served on SL’s Board of Directors after Steve’s passing in 1976. Fran continued her work with the League of Woman Voters serving as its NJ President and began a close and lifelong association with Swarthmore College, Steve’s alma mater.
She admired Swarth more’s Quaker tradition of service and became committed to supporting the role higher education can play in creating a better world.
In 1980 Glassboro State College called on Fran to join its Board of Directors. As a board member and Vice-Chairman, Fran was instrumental in assisting Glassboro in its historic receipt of a $100 million donation (the largest gift to a public college at the time) from well-known South Jersey industrialist Henry Rowan and his wife Betty. As a result, Glassboro State College was renamed Rowan University. Fran also headed the renovation of the Holly Bush Mansion at the University, the site of the historic 1967 Glassboro Summit between President Lyndon Johnson and Soviet Premier, Alexei Kosygin.
Rowan University honored Fran with an honorary doctorate in humanities in 1999.
Fran believed in the collective responsibility to make education available to all young people. To that end she created scholarship funds at Swarthmore College for domestic and international students, and established a fund for faculty development at Rowan University
Among her numerous other activities, Fran volunteered for the Haddonfield Parents Teachers Association (past President), South Jersey Planned Parenthood and the American Friend Service Committee. She was a member of the Philadelphia International Advisory Commission for the Celebration of the Bicentennial of the United States, a trustee for the Guidance Clinic of Camden County, and was a board member of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. She was a member of the Radcliffe Club, the Harvard Club and the Philadelphia Art Alliance. Fran and Steve were active members of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Cherry Hill, NJ. She also enjoyed travel throughout the world: especially Mexico. She was an avid reader and adored the visual arts, ballet, theater and music of all kinds.
Fran is survived by three sons and respective daughters-in-law, S. Girard Lax of Pennington, NJ, Andrew R. Lax of San Francisco, CA. and Charles R. Lax of Dover, MA and 3 grandchildren. She was predeceased by her husband in 1976 and by her first born son Jonathan R. Lax in 1996.
A memorial service will take place at Medford Leas, One Medford Leas Way, Medford, NJ on March 2nd at 2 p.m.. Burial will be private.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Rowan University Foundation- Lax Fund, Attn: Peggy Veacock, 201 Mullica Hill Road, Glassboro, NJ 08028.