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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

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Lang is also a board member of the Campanile Foundation, SDSU’s philanthropic auxiliary. Lang is also a board member of the Campanile Foundation, SDSU’s philanthropic auxiliary.

A Path to the Top

The Langs' gift supports aspiring business leaders and veteran entrepreneurs.
By Coleen L. Geraghty

This story appears in the spring 2016 issue of 360: The Magazine of San Diego State University. 

Linda Martinez might have been a highly successful primary school teacher—or possibly a principal—if her father had not intervened.

“You’re talented in math,” he told her. “You should think about a career in business.” Heeding his advice, the California native transferred from Chico State University to the University of California, Berkeley and switched majors from early childhood education to finance.

So began the career of Linda Lang—eight-year CEO of Jack in the Box, former trustee of the California State University and recipient of an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from San Diego State University in 2013.

Lang is among a handful of women to have run a major publicly traded company in San Diego. A decade before becoming president of Jack in the Box, she was instrumental in the company’s successful recovery from a major food-borne illness episode.

The incident fast-forwarded Lang’s career, leading to increasingly responsible roles from financial analyst to chief marketing officer to head of operations to president and—in 2005—to CEO.
Lang wants young women to hear stories like hers and understand that they can have successful careers. A new gift to SDSU from Lang and her entrepreneur husband, Tom Lang, also an SDSU alumnus, will launch a speaker series to bring prominent business women to campus.

“It’s important to inspire young women by showing them examples of success,” Lang said. “I never considered myself an over-achiever, but I was focused and I persevered. We’ve seen an increase in women-owned businesses and women in top positions, but they still represent a small fraction of the whole. Getting a good education is the first step in preparing for a leadership role in business.”

Lang said she made a “strategic” decision in her early career to stop working for a few years to raise two young sons and pursue an MBA at San Diego State. She graduated in 1991 and returned to Jack in the Box, where she had built a reputation as a hard worker and skilled problem-solver.

The Langs are ardent supporters of The Campaign for SDSU. Their recent gift to launch the speaker series also includes support for the Joan and Art Barron Veterans Center and for an initiative to increase the number of student-veterans involved in SDSU’s Zahn Innovation Platform (ZIP) Launchpad. Tom, a veteran and Class of ’67 graduate, sits on the ZIP advisory board.

SDSU has raised more than $675 million of its $750-million campaign goal in support of support of the university community. The campaign has allowed SDSU to increase student scholarship awards, hire and retain exceptional faculty and increase academic programming.

“The Campaign for SDSU has been very successful, producing tangible results that can be seen all around campus,” Linda observed.

It’s likely she will be seen more often on campus this year as she begins a term as a board member of the Campanile Foundation, SDSU’s philanthropic auxiliary.