To the TC Community:

It is with great sadness that I report that Teachers College Trustee Emeritus John Klingenstein, a visionary philanthropist and one of the College’s staunchest supporters, has passed away at age 89.

John, who served on TC’s Board with great distinction from 1979 through 2014, was a quiet, self-effacing gentleman whose extraordinary vision and belief in the power of education will endure for generations to come.

As a TC Trustee, John, in the words of our late Co-Board Chair Jack Hyland, was “the closest thing we have to an all-around player,” distinguished by his “loyalty, common sense and faithful attendance.” Current Board Chair Bill Rueckert called him “one of the true senior statesmen of our board.”

As President for 40 years of the Esther A. and Joseph Klingenstein Fund (a post he relinquished to his son, Andrew, in 2013), John sought to advance understanding and practice in areas that both mattered to him personally and that, in his estimation, were overlooked.

These areas included neuroscience (a nephew suffered from epilepsy); the separation of church and state in science education; and most notably, independent school education.

Indeed, John’s most enduring legacy at TC is the Klingenstein Center for Independent School Leadership, which he established at the College in the late 1970s with guidance from consultants at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the nationally known educator Theodore Sizer.

A proud alumnus of Deerfield Academy, John believed deeply that independent schools play an important role in society by instilling a sense of civic responsibility, leadership, and public service.

His vision was fully realized at the Klingenstein Center, which now claims nearly 4,500 alumni at top independent schools throughout the country and the world and is widely considered the country’s preeminent program for private school leadership training.

In a resounding and inspiring vote of confidence in the College and the Center, John and his wife Pat made an endowed bequest of $20 million for ongoing support of the Center.  In all, John’s giving to TC totaled nearly $55 million, making him the most generous donor in the College’s history

By all accounts, John was the ideal benefactor. Klingenstein Center Advisory Board member Richard Barter once said John “empowers good people and gets out of the way.” Yet, in the words of Pearl Kane, who will step down in September after 37 years as the Klingenstein Center’s Director, John also 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.” Pearl also noted today that John “knew what few philanthropists understand about how to motivate people, how to engender commitment and how to act on his values.”

Pat Klingenstein was John’s most valuable partner in his philanthropy. In particular, her love and support for the Klingenstein Center’s innovative programs added to his joy and pride in the work.

John’s other great gift to TC is his daughter, Nancy Simpkins, who currently serves as a dynamic and highly respected member of our Board.

Teachers College mourns John’s loss and we send our heartfelt condolences to Pat Klingenstein; to the Klingenstein children – Tom Klingenstein, Nancy Klingenstein Simpkins, Andy Klingenstein, and Sally Klingenstein Martell; and to the extended Klingenstein family.

The College will honor John’s remarkable legacy at a memorial service on September 17th at 4 p.m. in the Cowin Conference Center.

Thomas Bailey
President, Teachers College