Lawrence J. Ramer ’50, former chair of Lafayette’s Board of Trustees, died Nov. 2 at his home in Los Angeles after a long battle with cancer. He was 84.
Services and a tribute to his life will be held today at Hillside Memorial Park in Los Angeles. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial donations be made to Ramer Fund at Lafayette College or to the Lawrence and Lee Ramer Fund of the American Jewish Committee, 165 East 56th St., New York, N.Y. He is survived by his wife, Ina Lee Ramer, and their children, Stephanie Ramer, Susan Ramer-Coleman ’83, Doug Ramer, and three grandchildren. He is also survived by a brother, Bruce Ramer.
Larry Ramer was elected to the College’s Board of Trustees in 1976 and served as chair from 1992 to 2001, when he became a trustee emeritus. He chaired the Marquis Society from 1978 to 1980.
Ramer History House, dedicated Oct. 20, 2006, is named for Larry and Lee Ramer in appreciation for their dedication to academic excellence at Lafayette. It is the second campus building named in honor of the Ramers. Ramer Hall, a student residence, opened in 1991.
The Ramers were inducted into the Société d’Honneur in 1991. The College awarded Larry Ramer an honorary degree in 1992.
Born in Bayonne, N.J., on July 29, 1928, Ramer grew up in Hackensack, N.J. He majored in economics at Lafayette. While earning his MBA from Harvard Business School, Ramer met his future wife, Ina Lee Brown, who was then attending Wellesley College. Married in 1957, the Ramers drove cross-country to Los Angeles, a drive they considered as their honeymoon. Starting out in business as assistant to the president of Riverside Cement Company (later American Cement), Ramer pursued his dream of becoming an entrepreneur and philanthropist.
As a young executive, Ramer became president and CEO of the National Portland Cement Co. of Bradenton, Fla., and later co-founded the Pacific Coast Cement Co. of Los Angeles. He served as chairman and CEO of Bruning Paint Company in Baltimore, Md., and later as chairman of Ramer Equities, headquartered in Los Angeles, a family-run business focused on acquisition and development of manufacturing companies. Among his business achievements, Ramer undertook several corporate turnarounds for the Bank of Pennsylvania.
Ramer’s volunteer service and philanthropy activities spanned the United States and extended beyond its borders. In addition to his service to Lafayette, he was a member of the board of directors and the executive committee of ORBIS International, a New York City-based charity that operates a flying eye hospital offering modern eye care and surgical techniques to third world countries. More recently he served as a member of the board of trustees of Helen Keller International.
Ramer was committed to his adopted city of Los Angeles. As a supporter of arts and education, he served as president and chairman of the Center Theater Group, which manages the Mark Taper Forum and the Ahmanson Theatre at The Music Center in Los Angeles, from 1987 to 1997, and as chairman of the board of the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) from 1996 to 2006.
The Ramers were longtime members of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), headquartered in New York City. Ramer also served as AJC’s treasurer. He had great faith in post-war democracy in the Federal Republic of Germany. He was passionate about the possibilities for a gentler, wiser Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall and in 2000 founded, with Lee, the Lawrence and Lee Ramer Institute for German-Jewish Relations as the cornerstone of the AJC’s office in Berlin. He intended that the Ramer Institute serve as an example of the power of bridge-building and reconciliation. Through the institute, Ramer became well-known as a transatlanticist.
In 2000, he was decorated with the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany by President Johannes Rau. In addition, he was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.