2011 TC Pressroom
Teachers College, Columbia University
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John Klingenstein

John Klingenstein

 Anyone with money can give it away. Making it count takes work--and among heads of private family foundations, few have worked harder or more effectively than John Klingenstein.

Not that he'll tell you so. Klingenstein, President of the Esther A. and Joseph Klingenstein Fund--established in 1946 by his parents--has been a member of TC's Board of Trustees since 1979. The Fund has given the College more than $20 million.

Board Co-Chair Jack Hyland describes John Klingenstein as "the closest thing we have to an all-around player," adding that his "loyalty, common sense and faithful attendance are legendary." Bill Rueckert, the other Co-Chair, simply describes him as, "in many respects, the core of TC's Board."

Yet, ask the man himself and he'll say only that "we've had a great President and a great group of very committed people on the Board."

Likewise with the Klingenstein Center for Independent School Education, which Klingenstein established at TC in the late 1970s with guidance from consultants at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and nationally known educator Theodore Sizer. Widely considered the preeminent pro g ram for private school leadership training, the Center claims 2,500 alumni at top independent schools.

"John's humility and respect for educators and teachers model what we try to develop in our students," says the Center's longtime Director, TC Professor Pearl Kane. "He knows what we're trying to accomplish, he meets with our students directly, and he's a wonderful advocate and source of strength. He's changed lives."

Told of Kane's comments, Klingenstein smiles and shrugs. "The Center is 99 percent dependent on Pearl's enthusiasm and vision. Basically, she sends me a proposal for funding every year, we ask a few questions and then we send her a check."

This much is clear: Klingenstein supported projects succeed. The Fund--financially managed by John's younger brother, Fred, at the private firm Klingenstein, Fields and Co.--educates the public about appropriate use of animals in biomedical research; promotes separation of church and state in science education; and underwrites the Klingenstein Fellowship Awards in the Neurosciences, which focus on epilepsy. (The Fund's Advisory Board for this initiative is chaired by Nobel laureate Eric Kandel of Columbia University.) The common threads? The Fund chooses overlooked niche areas, hoping to make a mark. It adopts causes close to the hearts of the two Klingenstein brothers and their families. (A nephew of John's has epilepsy, and John, himself, is a product of independent schools.) And in each instance, as Richard Barter, a Klingenstein Center Advisory Board member, puts it, " John Klingenstein empowers good people and gets out of their way." Which, even Klingenstein himself might admit, is certainly a foundation to build upon.

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