Philanthropist, Sunset publisher Bill Lane dies
Longtime environmentalist, fan of the West former ambassador dies following an illness
Former Sunset magazine publisher and philanthropist Bill Lane died Saturday following a rich life of community dedication and leadership. Lane died at Stanford Hospital following an illness and surrounded by family members.
Lane, who was U.S. ambassador to Japan and Australia in the Ford and Reagan administrations, celebrated his 90th birthday last November.
He was also a co-founder of the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University. He graduated from Stanford in 1942.
Lane died of respiratory failure at Stanford Hospital at 7:30 p.m. Saturday following a week in a coma related to bleeding in the brain, or subdural hematoma. Family members were with him, according to a spokesperson.
Among numerous other community activities, Lane was a founder the Town of Portola Valley in 1964, and he served as its first mayor — but only for about 20 minutes, saying he had other things to do. He and his wife, Jean, had a home there for 54 years.
He and his brother, Mel Lane, who died in 2007 at 85, were co-publishers of Sunset Magazine for more than 30 years. The magazine initially was purchased by their father, Laurence Lane, during the Depression when it was a shaky publication, and both brothers sold it door-to-door during the Depression years.
Following his graduation from Stanford, he served as a naval lieutenant during the balance of the war, including as a gunnery officer on a troop transport.
Both he and his brother were avid environmentalists, contributing heavily to local and national environmental organizations and causes.
Lane was an active supporter of Peninsula Open Space Trust, as well as of national parks and conservation causes around the country, according to Audrey Rust, POST chief executive.
"He was really a remarkable man who put his efforts into his belief system. He was a conservationist of great stature," she said.
Lane was a renowned philanthropist and fundraiser, who first gave then asked others to contribute to a broad variety of causes.
POST's environmentally themed Wallace Stegner lecture series was underwritten by Bill and Jean Lane, and he attended almost every lecture for 15 years, Rust said.
He also served on the board at Colonial Williamsburg and funded environmental internships at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural.
In 1984 he set a record of sorts for raising more than $1 million in about six weeks to restore the Stanford Barn (now the Red Barn Equestrian Center), as well as raising funds to repair Memorial Church and Quad's History Corner after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake.
He was enormously generous to Stanford University, endowing the Bill Lane Center for the American West in 2005 with a $5 million gift. More recently, the Lanes gave $2.5 million to help build the $20 million three-building complex at the Portola Valley Town Center. The U.S. Green Building Council recently awarded the complex its highest rating.
His public service included a stint as ambassador-at-large in Japan, then ambassador to Australia and Nauru under Presidents Ford and Reagan.
He is survived by his wife, Jean; children Robert Lane, Sharon Lane and Brenda Munks and her husband, Greg; and five grandchildren.
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