“Enormous Generosity with Little Fanfare”:
Teachers College Mourns Trustee Emeritus John Klingenstein
Photo by John Emerson via Teachers College
Teachers College Trustee Emeritus John Klingenstein passed away earlier this week at age 89. He served on TC’s board for 35 years, from 1979 through 2014, and during the late 1970s established TC’s Klingenstein Center for Independent School Leadership, now regarded as the nation’s preeminent program for private school leadership training. In 1992, he received TC’s Cleveland E. Dodge Medal for Distinguished Service to Education, the highest recognition the College accords to a non-educator.
Together with his wife, Pat, Klingenstein gave nearly $55 million to the College, including a $20 million endowed bequest to the Klingenstein Center, making him the most generous donor in TC’s history.
“John Klingenstein was a visionary philanthropist and one of the College’s staunchest supporters,” said Teachers College President Thomas Bailey in a letter to the TC community. “He was a quiet, self-effacing gentleman whose extraordinary vision and belief in the power of education will endure for generations to come.”
And Bill Rueckert, TC’s Board Chair, called Klingenstein “one of the true senior statesmen of our board.”
“John was always forthcoming with wisdom and advice, and he always backed it up with his incredible generosity to TC,” Rueckert said. “He was also just a great guy. When I first joined TC’s board, I admired and looked up to him, and over the years that only deepened. He always had a smile, he always asked about my family, and his knowledge of TC was invaluable.”
Klingenstein served for 40 years as President of the Esther A. and Joseph Klingenstein Fund (created by his parents), a post he relinquished to his son, Andy, in 2013. Through the Fund, he sought to advance understanding and practice in areas that mattered to him personally and that, in his estimation, were overlooked. These areas included neuroscience (a niece suffered from epilepsy); the separation of church and state in science education; and most notably, independent school education (he was a proud alumnus of Deerfield Academy).
The Klingenstein Center, which he created with guidance from consultants at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and nationally known educator Theodore Sizer — and which now claims nearly 4,500 alumni at top independent schools throughout the country and the world — reflects his belief that independent schools play an important role in society by instilling a sense of civic responsibility, leadership, and public service.
“John knew what few philanthropists understand about how to motivate people, how to engender commitment, and how to act on his values,” said Pearl Rock Kane, who will step down in September after 37 years as the Klingenstein Center’s Director, but will continue to teach at TC. “He was a wonderful advocate and source of strength whose humility and respect for educators and teachers model what we try to develop in our students.”
Those sentiments were widely echoed.
“John’s life was distinguished by enormous acts of generosity, done with very little fanfare,” said TC Trustee Ruth Gottesman, who knew Klingenstein for 60 years. “He was modest, intelligent, a loyal friend, and deeply committed to education and to all the principles that TC stands for.”
And former TC President Susan Fuhrman called Klingenstein “an extraordinarily committed, caring and generous member of our board,” adding “I will always appreciate his warmth and steadfast support.”
John Klingenstein is survived by his wife and philanthropic partner, Pat; by their four children — Tom Klingenstein; current TC Trustee Nancy Klingenstein Simpkins; Andy Klingenstein; and Sally Klingenstein Martell; and by his brother, Fred.
The College will honor John Klingenstein’s legacy at a memorial on September 17th at 4 p.m. in the Cowin Conference Center. #