The 1950s in Los Angeles were a tumultuous time for racial and religious discrimination. To begin addressing these concerns raised by early pioneers of interreligious dialogue in Los Angeles, then-Loyola University President Charles S. Casassa, S.J., and his friend Martin Gang – a Los Angeles lawyer, community leader, and activist for social justice – established a summer workshop for community leaders in 1953. Sponsored by the American Jewish Committee, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the City of Los Angeles, and other academic institutions, the Loyola Workshop for Human Resources and Group Dynamics taught students about issues of discrimination in the work place, how to assess them and how to overcome them properly. The Workshop catered to clergy, religious ministers, civil servants, corporate employees, social workers, and medical professionals.
Dr. Neil Sandberg, then-Regional Director of AJC Los Angeles, succeeded Dr. William Fitzgerald as director in the early 1970s and assisted Fr. Casassa, as Chancellor of LMU, to establish an endowment to fund the Workshop in perpetuity. At their request to LMU President Donald Merrified, S.J., the Workshop was named the Martin Gang Institute in honor of Mr. Gang’s longstanding support of the program and generous contributions to the endowment. Dr. Sandberg continued to direct the Institute in LMU Extension up until his retirement from the program in 2009.
Today, the Martin Gang Institute, under the direction of an executive committee, has expanded beyond the initial human resources workshop to include research and sponsored programs that promote understanding between religious and ethnic communities in Southern California.