Ian Lapp loves New York City. He grew up in a suburb of the city, worked at Columbia University as an academic leader and faculty member for 10 years, and met his wife, a corporate attorney, in Manhattan. One of his favorite spots in Manhattan is the upper section of Central Park near West 110th Street and Fifth Avenue. “The area between the reservoir and the top of the park allows you to almost feel like you’re not in the city. Most of the skyline fades away,” he says.
Lapp, who was an associate dean and faculty member at Harvard University for five years before joining Babson, is quick to add that he also adores New England. “I grew up loving This Old House,” he says, “so maybe I have New England in my blood.”
He has deep connections to Canada. Both his wife and mother are from Montreal. “My mom was a stay-at-home mom, but she was one of the first women to earn a business degree at McGill,” he says. “My wife is also a McGill graduate and grew up in Montreal. We got married in the same synagogue as my parents. So two generations of New York boys who met Montreal girls.”
Lapp ran a marathon. Two weeks after finishing his dissertation, Lapp ran the New York City Marathon. “I don’t recommend training for a marathon while finishing a dissertation,” he says. “I only ran one marathon in my life, but I think it is quite special when you go through these neighborhoods and people are cheering. It’s about the closest I’ll ever come to being a real athlete in a big stadium where people are cheering. It’s quite exciting.”
Nowadays, he enjoys playing tennis in the evenings on the Babson courts with his 12-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter. “I played tennis, mostly doubles, in high school,” he says, “and I learned a lot of teamwork skills.”
He’s a trailblazer. While working on his PhD in sociology from Syracuse University, Lapp was one of the first men to receive a certificate in women’s studies, which he earned along with his master’s in sociology. He also earned a master’s degree in television, radio, and film, and made a documentary, which was entered in a film festival, about the relationship between an older man and the younger man who cared for him. “I’ve always been fascinated by how people interact and about attitudes and perceptions,” he says.
He is inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. “I’ve spent a lot of time with his speeches over the years,” says Lapp. “I believe in his principles of social justice and, equally, if not more, I admire him as someone who had a talent for communication and inspiration.”
Lapp loves working with students. It’s the reason he became the undergraduate dean. “Eighteen- to 22-year-olds have the whole world in front of them,” he says. “They’re maturing as people but also have an energy about trying to figure out what they want to do through schooling. You can have a profound impact because you’re helping to define the life ahead.”
Lapp says he rediscovered himself several times as an undergraduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, initially studying management information systems before moving to journalism and communications and finally sociology. “I think that’s not uncommon,” he says. “To be part of the process of young people discovering themselves—it’s fun and exciting.”—Donna Coco