Section: News

Professor Emeritus of English William Klein dies at 85

Professor Emeritus of English William Klein dies at 85

William Klein taught at Kenyon for nearly 50 years, from 1968 to 2016. | COURTESY OF KENYON COLLEGE

William Klein, professor emeritus of English, died on March 31 at the age of 85. He taught at Kenyon for nearly 50 years, arriving as an instructor of English in 1968 and retiring in 2016.

Klein was born in Dwight, Ill., on November 21, 1936. He received his Bachelor of Arts from Butler University in 1959 and briefly worked in the insurance industry before earning his master’s and a doctorate from the University of Chicago in 1962 and 1975, respectively. 

Klein joined Kenyon’s Department of English in 1968 to teach courses in linguistics and the history of the English language. Following Klein’s tenure and promotion to associate professor in 1976, he was promoted to full professor in 2001. Throughout his tenure, Klein was heavily involved in the community, serving as the editor of the Kenyon Review, chair of the Campus Senate, faculty marshal and chair for a number of other committees. 

Friends and colleagues describe Klein as exceptionally kind and passionate about his subject matter. “His passion for the books and time period he taught was so infectious that we students became just as excited by it,” Klein’s friend Julie Miller Vick ’73 said in the College’s obituary. “Bill was a kind man who was always available for discussion during office hours, after class, while walking down Middle Path or by phone to his home. He and his wife, Joyce, were friends to so many students and graduates.”

Klein retired with his wife in Portland, Maine in 2016 and was awarded an honorary doctorate in humane letters at Kenyon’s Commencement the same year. He is survived by three children — all of whom graduated from Kenyon in the 1990s — and two grandchildren. 

The Cathedral Church of St. Luke in Portland, Maine will host a memorial service for Klein on April 30 at 11:30 a.m.


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