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Former professor’s ‘vision’ created a new way for students to learn, live

Tom Klein may have retired from the University in June of 2004, but he doesn’t like that particular term.

“Retired is like saying you’re giving up or quitting,” he said. “I’ll still be doing a lot of things that I enjoy.”

Klein, 64, was the creator and director of Chapman Learning Community, which is now called Chapman Community at Kohl.

He also taught high school and college English for 38 years.

The learning communities have been a big part of the University ever since they were introduced in 1997, according to Klein.

“The whole idea behind this is to make a residence hall and create a theme to build a common learning community,” he said. “Students take common courses together and live together.”

Klein said this is a great way for students to get to know each other and come close with others who have the same interests and majors.

“We wanted to create a close-knit body of human beings who support each other in their learning,” he said. “In a normal residential area people don’t even know who lives down the hall from them; in a residential learning community, you know who you live with and who’s in your classes.”

Most of the residence halls on campus are now learning communities with 90 percent of Kohl residents being involved with the Kohl Learning Community, Klein said.

Klein had a lot of motivation for starting the community center.

“There was too much separation, with the learning communities we wanted to bring things together,” Klein said. “I thought classes were too big and I just wanted to shake things up.”

Klein has since handed over duties to Bob Midden, current director of Chapman Community at Kohl, who enjoyed working with Klein.

“He has the ability to look at the other side of things and help us reach good decisions on things we were planning to do,” Midden said. “He was able to see things that others couldn’t and reflect it in a positive way.”

Midden also recognizes what Klein has done for the learning communities.

“He created it, it was his vision and he recruited the initial participants,” he said. “He provided leadership throughout our first 6 years.”

Klein now likes to make jewelry in his free time and is even selling some of his work to some local shops around Bowling Green.

He had been taking art classes for over 30 years, and a year ago, he went to a workshop in Pittsburgh and made glass beads.

Starting in August, Klein will be teaching three different English courses aboard a ship for the Semester at Sea program.

Klein has also done a bit of traveling since retiring. He has taken five trips in the last year including going to his 50th eighth grade reunion in Chicago.

“It was a wild experience,” he said. “One hundred and four out of 130 possible students showed up. I danced with my two oldest girlfriends from eighth grade and tried to confront a kid who beat me up.”

He also golfs a lot and exercises by what he likes to call spinning.

“Spinning is riding stationary bikes. I do that for an hour about three times a week,” he said. “We have an instructor and we just ride bikes to loud rock ‘n’ roll music.”

Klein is not going to let the retirement title hold him down. He said ever since he started working, he wanted to move on to something different every ten years.

Klein has been married for 29 years to his wife, Dianne, and has a son who is an industrial designer in Milwaukee.

Klein says he has no plans to leave Bowling Green.

“I love the community; it gave me my wife and my wonderful and continuing career,” he said. “It also let me rattle around from one interest to the next.”

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