Wallace G. Klein, AB ’47, MA ’48
Honorary Chair, Washington University Loyalty Society
73 years loyal
Wallace Klein, AB ’47, MA ’48, has supported Washington University every year for 72 years and counting. He was 16 years old when he enrolled at Washington University in 1940. A graduate of University City High School (UCHS) 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 Klein.
He chose political science as his major and minored in history. “I was very impressed with the university and the campus,” 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 Willkie. 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’s degree, also in political science, on the G.I. Bill.
After a series of odd jobs as a graduate student, Klein eventually worked as a graduate assistant for Professor Erich P. Hofacker Jr. in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures. He credits this experience with helping him discover a passion for teaching. He took summer courses in education, and in 1954, he accepted a full-time teaching position teaching social studies at Jennings High School in Missouri. One year later, he transferred to UCHS, his alma mater, to teach German. 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 UCHS, Klein retired from teaching in 1983. He remained with UCHS as a volunteer in the alumni office until 2009.
Before moving to Chicago in 2009, Mr. Klein and his wife, Norma, who earned a Master of Arts in education 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. 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 Kleins served on the University Libraries Eliot Society Membership Committee in 2005.
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 that has lasted, without pause, for 73 years and counting, and has earned him the distinction of being the 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. A founding member of the Loyalty Society, 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,” says Klein. “My education exceeded my expectations, and I have many fond memories from my days on campus. My wife, Norma, and I contribute to the university every year to help continue its longstanding legacy of excellence.”