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.

[The John Klingenstein Memorial Celebration will take place on Monday, September 17, 2018 at 4:00 PM in the Joyce B. Cowin Auditorium at Teachers College. Click here to RSVP.]

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.”

Together with his wife, Pat, John Klingenstein gave nearly $55 million to Teachers College, including a $20 million endowed bequest to the Klingenstein Center, making him the most generous donor in TC’s history.


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). [Story continues below the box.]

A Partnership for the Ages

When people at TC recall John Klingenstein, the name that often comes up in the same breath is that of Professor Pearl Rock Kane. That’s not just because Kane has directed the Klingenstein Center for Independent School Leadership for the past 37 years. (Kane, who recently was honored with TC's President's Medal, relinquished that post in September, to be succeeded by Nicole Furlonge.) Rather, working together, Klingenstein and Kane created something that became larger than either of them, and their relationship has immeasurably strengthened Teachers College on many levels.

Pearl and John

A SPIRITED DIALOGUE Klingenstein and Kane partnered to build something larger than either of them.

“The partnership between John and Pearl was one of alignment and trust – a spirited, ongoing dialogue that has given us this wonderful center that has launched so many careers and touched so many lives,” says Suzanne M. Murphy, Vice President for Development & External Affairs. “John had the wisdom and foresight to recruit Pearl – and together, John and Pearl built magnificently on John’s original vision. John and the whole Klingenstein family have stayed close to the College and supported us on every level – and for that, as for so much else, we owe Pearl an enormous debt.”

TC Building in Spring

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 that independent schools play an important role in society by instilling a sense of civic responsibility, leadership, and public service.

[Read about recent programs created by The Klingenstein Center.]

“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.” 

Pat and John Klingenstein

PARTNER IN PHILANTHROPY – AND LIFE Pat Klingenstein has been an equal half of the Klingenstein philanthropic team. (Photo courtesy of the Klingenstein Center)

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. Click here to RSVP.

[The Klingenstein family asks that, to honor John Klingenstein's memory, donations be made to the Klingenstein Center for Independent School Leadership. Click Here.]