Klein’s work recognized

For 32 years, Tom Klein has brought innovation and dedication to his role as professor at the University.

Klein, a professor of English and director of the Chapman Learning Community, was given the Lifetime Achievement Award from Faculty Senate in recognition of his work.

Klein has been instrumental in creating many of the University’s groundbreaking programs and classes. Klein is the creator of the Great Ideas class and a Holocaust curriculum. Klein wrote a textbook for the Great Ideas class that has been used at over 100 universities. The Holocaust curriculum has been adopted by many area schools.

Klein also helped University professors write across curriculum. He helped train faculty members outside of English on how to use writing in their classes.

The biggest innovation Klein is responsible for is the Chapman Learning Community. The idea for Chapman came as a response to what Klein saw as failures in education.

Chapman brings together students and faculty in a learning living environment. The program allows students to engage in outside learning activities and work closely with their professors. “It brings people together; students, faculty and staff, to talk about ideas and to learn,” Klein said. “It’s interdisciplinary. It brings the subjects together.”

Over the past six years Klein has devoted much of his time and energy to the learning community. Some weeks, Klein will spend over 50 hours working. Occasionallly, Klein will spend 13 hours a day either in his office or in the classroom.

“The last six years have been tremendously challenging work,” Klein said. “It really was the climax of my professional career.” As for his career choice, Klein said education was the only option for him.

“It was a spiritual calling for me,” Klein said. “It was something that I had to do.”

Growing up in Glencoe, Ill., Klein took the role of leader. He would coordinate baseball games with other neighborhood kids. He also spent summers growing up as a camp counselor.

“My mother always said how good I was with children,” Klein said.

Klein began teaching at the University in 1971 following five years of teaching at the high school level. Klein left his high school job because he felt the school followed racist practices — he said the curriculum did not address minority or female writers. Klein finished his doctorate at Northwestern after leaving the high school.

Klein looks to the ideas of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung for his reasons for teaching. Jung wrote that teachers are wounded healers. Klein sees himself as a wounded person who is now a healer.

“I believe that education, in its largest sense, is a healing art,” Klein said. “Education cures the ills of ignorance, oppression and injustice.”