James Lyons ’03, one of the first Syracuse University alumni killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom, was inducted into the University’s National Veterans Resource Center’s Hall of Honor on Oct. 15. He was also recognized as the “Hometown Hero” during halftime…
Centenarian Alumnus Used Legal Training as Springboard to Success in Military and Private Practice
Robert Gang, who at 103 is the oldest living alumnus from Syracuse University’s College of Law, was honored Sept. 25 at the National Veterans Resource Center. The WWII and the Korean War-era veteran attended Syracuse University as both an undergraduate and law school student, and he was a member of Syracuse University’s Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC).
Gang grew up in the Syracuse area and attended Christian Brothers Academy for high school. His father gave Gang limited choices for his next steps after high school, “My father gave me an option. It was Syracuse University or no college,” says Gang.
Ultimately his goal was to attend law school, so he majored in political science. When Gang entered college in 1935, he said he needed to fulfill a requirement for a gym course. He was rejected from the athletic department, so he chose Army ROTC as a gym class alternative. He ended up joining the program as a cadet. Gang was a member of the Syracuse University Pershing rifle team. Gang made use of a rifle range in the basement of what was then Archbold Gymnasium, and practiced on targets 50 meters away.
Syracuse University was a smaller regional campus when Gang attended in the 1930s, and Gang did not live on campus as an undergraduate student. Instead, he lived at home with his parents and two siblings, walking 3 1/2 miles to campus for class, including during the harsh Syracuse winter weather. Gang would graduate in 1939, and immediately enrolled in the College of Law.
Before finishing his law degree in 1942, Gang took an Army physical in December. He was told he needed to report to the 630th Tank Destroyer battalion at Fort Jackson in South Carolina the following month. He was five credit hours from a degree in law. He would complete his degree by passing his finals while on duty, and passed the New York State Bar exam on May 22, 1946.
He went on to serve from 1942 to 1951 as a US Army infantry officer. Gang’s legal training was a huge resource to those he served with, especially when he represented soldiers charged with misconduct. In the military, Gang encountered many situations where he was given a task he had never done before. He would often do as much research as possible, employing the study habits he learned as a law student.
When he was assigned to Camp Bowie in Texas, Gang worked with an inspector general who was very behind in his work despite working over 100 hours a week. After working with him for only month, the inspector general was discharged from the Army. “I reported back to the general and he said to me, ‘Until I find another job for you, go back to the inspector general’s office and do what you can.’” Gang picked up the general’s work and a month later had caught up the backlog. He would later serve as an inspector general at Fort Hood in Texas.
After serving his country, Gang came back to Syracuse and started a very successful career in private practice, working in the firm Smith, Dolan, Gieselman and Gang. He specialized in Real Property law and served as the assistant city corporate counsel during his career. Gang practiced law for 50 years, doing pro bono work into his 80s.
Today, Gang lives with his second wife, Holly. He has eight children and 15 grandchildren. Gang’s family continues his legacy. His son-in-law, Ed Moses L’68, and grandson Matt Moses L’97 both attended Syracuse University for their law degrees. Gang’s advice to people, especially law students, after a century plus of experience is, “Do your own homework.”