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Keith Klafehn '61

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Scholarship will Honor Wife
June 2011


Keith Klafehn graduated in 1961 from Clarkson with a degree in Industrial Distribution.  But his connection to his alma mater has endured long past his walk across the commencement stage.  He earned his master’s degree at Clarkson, was an instructor at the University for two years and also served as director of alumni relations.  He has been an annual contributor to the Clarkson Fund and an unwavering supporter of Golden Knights hockey.

Klafehn grew up in a small farm town and attended Clarkson as the result of the GI Bill.  Dr. Bingham, one of his professors, recognized in him an inherent teaching ability and suggested that Klafehn would make a good teacher.  That idea was put on hold as his initial job was with The New York Telephone Company in New York City.  After three years Klafehn returned to Clarkson and worked in the Alumni Relations office, eventually becoming Director of Alumni Relations and the Annual Fund.  During this time he earned his Masters in Industrial Management and then, heeding Dr. Bingham’s suggestion, began teaching in the Industrial Distribution program, the forerunner to today’s Engineering Management program. Having found a vocation Klafehn left Clarkson to continue his education.

While working on his doctorate at Kent State University, Klafehn realized he was much better prepared than many of his fellow graduate students.  In fact, he remembers using a book during his doctoral studies that he had use in his graduate days at Clarkson.  “Clarkson seemed to have provided a much better educational base than the other colleges his peers had attended,” he recalls.

After receiving his degree, he accepted a teaching position at the University of Akron, where he worked for the next 26 years.  As a Professor of Management and Health Care Systems, he incorporated some of the strategies and principles that his professors at Clarkson employed.  For example, he memorized problems in the textbooks he used so when a student had a question about a problem, Klafehn could write the pertinent data without having to reference the book.

Klafehn has always been grateful for his Clarkson education and the opportunities it opened for him.  As an undergraduate at Clarkson, he even met his wife, Muriel, the sister of a SUNY Potsdam student.  The two were married and had a child by the time he was a junior.

“I am of the strong opinion that I would not be where I am today had I not gotten a Clarkson education,“ Klafehn says, “and I always wanted to give back to the university for what I had received.”  However, he also knew he eventually wanted to make a more significant contribution to Clarkson.

This opportunity came in the form of a charitable gift annuity and a life insurance policy that will eventually endow a scholarship in the name of his beloved wife, Muriel, who passed away from breast cancer.  The Muriel Klafehn Endowed Scholarship will be awarded yearly to a woman in the Engineering Management major who demonstrates financial need.

While attending Clarkson, Klafehn was an avid hockey fan.  For the past 15 years, Keith and his son, Mark have made a trip to see the Golden Knights in action.  Several times that trip was back to Potsdam to watch a weekend series of Clarkson hockey.  Klafehn, who celebrated his 50th reunion in 2011, shows the indelible mark Clarkson leaves on its students.