Professor and Director, Brookings Mountain West, Lincy Institute, University of Nevada - Las Vegas
Robert E. Lang was the Lincy Endowed Professor of Urban Affairs and the Director of Brookings Mountain West at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas until his untimely death on June 22, 2021 at the age of 62. Among his academic distinctions, he was a Fulbright Fellow at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris in 2008, a Visiting Distinguished Professor at Arizona State University in 2006, and more recently, a Planning and Development Fellow of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy in Cambridge, MA, and a Distinguished Visiting Fellow of the University of California, Riverside. He received his Ph.D. from Rutgers in 2002. Dr. Lang served as editor of several academic journals, including Housing Policy Debate and the Journal of the American Planning Association. His research specialties included suburban studies, real estate, demographic and spatial analysis, economic development, and metropolitan governance. He authored over 150 academic and professional publications on a wide range of topics and developed many new urban planning concepts such as “boomburbs,” “edgeless cities,” and “megapolitan areas.” Dr. Lang was in wide demand for his expertise, giving over 250 professional and academic talks and managing over 14 million dollars in research and foundation grants during his career. His research was featured in such outlets as USA Today, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal, and reported on by NPR, CNN, MSNBC, FOX News, and ABC World News Tonight. His publications included the books Edgeless Cities: Exploring the Elusive Metropolis (2003), Boomburbs: The Rise of America’s Accidental Cities (2007), and The New Politics of Planning (2009).
In several obituaries, Dr. Lang is lauded for his tireless advocacy of Las Vegas and his profound impact on urban development in southern Nevada, helping to build the city into a major multidimensional metropolis and UNLV into a bona fide research university. The Vegas Chamber of Commerce issued a statement saying, “Rob’s fingerprints are all over Las Vegas.” Brookings President John Allen called Rob “a treasured friend and colleague to so many within our institution,” and Tom Kaplan, a member of The Brookings Institution Board of Trustees, called Lang "Las Vegas's first true academic pioneer."
Similarly, faculty and graduate students who were at Rutgers during Rob’s time in our program remember him fondly, as a dear friend and as an electric and energizing presence in the classroom and in the hallways of our department. Pat Roos notes that Rob had “an outsized presence in our graduate program back in the 1990s. He would often pop into my Lucy Stone Hall office to chat, and I remember those conversations fondly. I remember in particular when as a student he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. It threw him for a loop, threatening his very future as an academic. We talked often about his worries and concerns, and we worried together. I was so happy to see him not only survive but thrive.” Wayne Brekhus notes that Rob was “an amazingly generous individual. As a graduate student he enjoyed mentoring newer graduate students. I loved all of the conversations we had and his willingness to mentor me, especially in my early years of graduate school when I wasn't quite sure how everything worked. He was almost always in his office and made the department a fun place to exchange ideas. He did so much for graduate student community and supporting a cooperative research culture among graduate students at Rutgers.” Rob’s life ended too soon and he will be very much missed.