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Wallace Klein, AB '47, MA '48

68 years loyal

Wallace Klein, AB ’47, MA ’48, has supported Washington University every year for 69 years and counting. He was 16 years old when he enrolled at Washington University in 1940. A graduate of University City High School in St. Louis, he was excited and honored to come to the university at a time when attending college was far from commonplace. The university offered the Klein family a loan to help with the cost of tuition, and his father used a life insurance policy as collateral. “My college education put a great financial strain on my family, and I credit my father with finding a way to make it possible,” says Mr. Klein.

He chose political science as his major and minored in history. “I was very impressed with the university and the campus,” Mr. Klein recalls. “It has always been a beautiful place, but it’s even more beautiful now.” He loved reading and studying in Ridgely Library. “I was paid about 35 cents an hour as a library ‘page’ who scampered the stairs of the stacks to retrieve the books ordered by students.”

He also was a member of the ROTC and served with the honor guard on the steps of Brookings Hall when the university welcomed presidential candidate Wendell Wilkie. Mr. Klein put his undergraduate education on hold from 1943 to 1945 to serve in the U.S. Army during World War II. He returned in 1946 and completed his bachelor’s degree. He went on to earn a master of arts, also in political science, on the G.I. Bill.

After a series of odd jobs as a graduate student, Mr. Klein eventually worked as a graduate assistant for Professor Erich P. Holfacher in the German Department. He credits this experience with helping him discover his passion for teaching. He took summer courses in education, and in 1954, he accepted a full-time position at Jennings High School in Missouri teaching social studies. One year later, he transferred to his alma mater, University City High School, to teach German. Mr. Klein was a Fulbright Exchange teacher in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1963, and he served as the business manager for The Modern Language Journal from 1963 to 1976. After 29 years with University City High School, Mr. Klein retired from teaching in 1983. He remained with UCHS as a volunteer in the alumni office until 2009.

Staying connected and giving back

Before moving to Chicago in 2009, Mr. Klein and his wife, Norma, who earned a master of arts from Washington University in 1982, lived only a few blocks from the Danforth Campus. The pair would often attend summer concerts in the Brookings Quadrangle and lectures in Graham Chapel. Mr. Klein maintained his connection to the university over the years as a volunteer, attending several Reunions and serving on his 40th Reunion Executive Committee in 1987. Both Wallace and Norma served on the University Libraries Eliot Society Membership Committee in 2005.

Mr. Klein made his first modest gift to the university in 1948—the year he completed his master’s degree. “I think there was a fundraising campaign for graduates, and I wanted to be a part of it, so I made a small gift,” he remembers. That first gift began a tradition for Mr. Klein that has lasted, without pause, for 68 years and counting, earning him the distinction of Washington University’s longest-giving recurring donor. His annual gifts support areas of the university that are most important to him, such as the Libraries, Friends of Music, College of Arts & Sciences, and the Murray Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy. He is a founding member of the Washington University Loyalty Society, established this year. He joined the Century Club in 1983 and has been a member of the William Greenleaf Eliot Society since 2001.

“I am very proud of Washington University and the national and international recognition it has received. My education exceeded my expectations, and I have many fond memories from my days on campus,” says Mr. Klein. “My wife, Norma, and I contribute to the university every year to help continue its longstanding legacy of excellence.” 


Would you like to learn more about the Washington University Loyalty Society? Visit the Loyalty Society website, call (877) 215-2727, or email loyaltysociety@wustl.edu. If you’d like to make a gift online, visit gifts.wustl.edu.

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