Kenneth H. Klein, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, With heavy hearts we announce that Kenneth Henry Klein, passed away on March 19, 2023, at the age of 92, in Valparaiso, Indiana. As was his wish, he died peacefully in his home, with his loving family around him. A strong man, he put up one heck of a fight trying to recover from the massive stroke that he sustained on January 4, 2023.
Ken was born on September 29, 1930, in Springfield, Illinois, the second of two sons of Hans Otto Klein and Hilma Marie (Volle) Klein. Ken vividly remembered the hardships of the Depression and of WWII, as well as having been lovingly nourished in a deeply conservative (Missouri Synod) religious home and church-centered environment. He was named after his grandfather, Henry Adam Klein, an ordained Lutheran minister and President of Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield, Illinois. Ken’s education took him through Lutheran parochial elementary school, through Springfield High School, Washington University, the University of Chicago (Bachelor of Divinity), Chicago Lutheran Theological Seminary (Master of Theology), Mansfield College of Oxford University, Oxford England (thesis research) and Harvard University, where he earned a Ph.D. in “History and Philosophy of Religion” in 1965.
Ken is survived by his wife of 23 ½ years, Lea Paulette Lorraine Shelemey, her two children, Denise Dalphond and Gregory Dalphond, and three step-grandchildren, Oliver Rotz, Peach Dalphond, and Earl Rotz. He is also survived by his first wife, Mary (Yuerhs) Klein, their two daughters, Jennifer Klein and Jessica Klein Freas (Rob Freas), and five grandchildren, Chayton Burkhart, Jimmy Burkhart, Christian Freas, Evelyn Freas, and Julian Freas. He was predeceased by his mother in 1944, by his father in 1977, and by his brother (Donald Edward Klein) in 2018.
In college, Ken double-majored in English and Psychology, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa, Beta Chapter, Missouri, 1952. He also dallied in athletics. He competed two years as a diver on the swimming team of Washington University and continued as a diver and gymnast at the University of Chicago. As a diver on the University of Chicago swimming team, he won the Chicago Intercollegiate Diving Championship in 1954. Far more important to him than athletics, Ken had the good fortune, in his sophomore year at Washington University, of taking an introductory course in philosophy under the not-yet world-famous Professor Huston Smith, who influenced his life in two ways; first, by personifying the discipline of philosophy, and second, by urging that he follow his undergraduate years with a more thorough study of theology at the University of Chicago. In addition to Huston Smith, Ken credits two philosophers at Harvard, Rogers Albriton and Paul Ziff, with turning his life around.
His graduate school years were both years of pleasure—his happiest times were the five summers he spent as a bellman on the S. S. North American, a cruise ship that plied the waters of the Great Lakes—and years of deep spiritual searching; his studies at the University of Chicago, Oxford University, and Harvard University brought profound challenges to the theological beliefs he had adopted as a youth. That searching, which he took seriously, lasted the rest of his life.
Ken came to Valparaiso University in response to a personal invitation of then-President O.P. Kretzmann, who was also a life-long friend of Ken’s father. Ken spent his entire professional life teaching in the Philosophy Department of Valparaiso University. He came to V.U. in the spring of 1965 and retired, with the status of Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, in the spring of 1995. He cherishes his 30 years teaching in the philosophy department, where his main focus was logic, epistemology, metaphysics, Early Modern Philosophy (Descartes, Leibniz, Spinoza, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant) and the philosophy of religion. He regarded his teaching years as the best years of his life…the most challenging, the most productive, the most deeply satisfying.
In addition to his regular duties as faculty member, he did other things along the way: In 1967, he was chosen to select and train Valparaiso University’s “College Bowl” team, an inter-university academic competition, broadcast each week on national TV, where Valpo’s team won twice (and lost once). For two years, 1969-’71, he was the first two-year Director of VU’s Overseas Study Program in Cambridge, England. In 1995 he received the first Caterpillar award for “Excellence in Teaching.” In that connection, and for three academic years funded by the Lilly Corporation, he founded and initiated the Teaching Resource Center at Valparaiso University, a program which strove to provide resources for the improvement of teaching. In 1968 he took a Sabbatical at the University of Wisconsin, where he revised and expanded his doctoral dissertation into a book—Positivism and Christianity: A Study of Theism and Verifiability—which was published by Martinus Nijhoff in 1977. For several years in the mid 1980’s he was actively involved in ”Philosophers Concerned for Peace,” a sub-group of the American Philosophical Association, during those worrisome years when the USA and the Soviet Union were stockpiling nuclear weapons and the world was consumed with worry about the prospect of nuclear war. His involvement in that group resulted in his co-editing two more books, Issues in War and Peace and In the Interest of Peace, which were published by Longwood Academic in 1989 and 1990. He regrets his never having finished his still-unpublished manuscript on “free will.” He took a four-year leave of absence (1975-’79) from V.U. to support his then wife and two small children (aged two and four) in Philadelphia, a period in which she earned an M.D. from the Medical College of Pennsylvania.
Since his retirement, Ken has enjoyed golf, gardening, and more than a hundred thousand miles of motorcycling all over the USA - “every state except Rhode Island,”-as well as deep into Canada. His post-retirement years have seen continued involvement in The Emeriti Book Club at V.U. and ReVU (Retirees of Valparaiso University) an organization which he helped organize at V.U. and has encouraged and nourished by his involvement in AROHE (Association of Retirement Organizations in Higher Education) a national organization devoted to the enrichment of the post-retirement years of faculty, administration and staff of colleges and universities across the country.
There will be a Visitation, conceived as a celebration of his life, at Moeller Funeral Home & Crematory, in Valparaiso on Friday March 24, 2023, from 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM, and a Funeral Service at Immanuel Lutheran Church on Saturday, March 25, 2023, at 10:00 AM. Ken will be buried at Oak Ridge Cemetery in the Klein family plot in Springfield, Illinois in the Spring. Memorial donations may be made to the Hilltop House, Valparaiso University Philosophy Department or Compassion & Choices.
We are so sorry to hear of Ken’s passing. He was truly a great and compassionate man. We send many blessings for peace for your family. Your loving cousins, -Jeff and Beth Littmann
Lea and Family; Please accept my sincerest sympathy on the passing of Ken. Lea, my heart and prayers are with you at this very difficult time. Please take good care. Sincerely, -America (Amy) McAlpin
Personal Tribute to My Forever Best Friend, Ken Klein Back (way back) in 1950 Ken and I met at the indoor swimming pool on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis, Mo. Both of us were aspiring to be divers on the swimming team, and, unbeknownst to either of us at that time, both of us were also aspiring "philosophers.* As it turned out, we both did end up majoring in philosophy, and both retained a "philosophical" approach to life to the end (which, say I, is only thebeginning.) Temperamentally, we were a perfect match for each other, both relatively easy going and outgoing; so, no surprise, we hit it off instantly, and after hours spent together in the front seat of his (his dad's?) Buick discussing everything we both were interested in, we ended up being "Best Friends" for Life. (I even invited Ken to be Best Man in my wedding in Detroit in 1955, but he didn't think he could make it to the wedding, so I invited my dad to fill that role, and then at the last minute, Ken did manage to attend.) Our separate Life Paths, as it turned out put long spaces between our opportunities to meet together directly, but whenever we could, we both reconnected immediately and enthusiastically! We both chose to major in philosophy in our undergrad studies, and only in one area did our views differ significantly, and that was in our respective personal beliefs and faith in a personal God. Ken struggled in a way that I did not over God's sovereignty simultaneous with His willingness to allow so much Evil and Suffering in the world He created and controlled! Often I have heard him remark: "I wish I could Believe the way you do, Woody, but I just can’t work it out!" Still, we loved each other uniquely. I've never had so "close" a friend! As many of you who read this or have occasion to hear it read will know from your own experiences with Ken, he had his own unique way of meeting you where you are, and for that alone, his absence from our lives will ever be an ache and an emptiness! My personal consolation consists in my anticipation of a glorious reunion with him when it comes my turn to pass through the veil separating this life from the next, and as my own personal belief system allows, I will get to rush (fly?) right up to Ken (of course! we will recognize each other! Why wouldn't we?) - and I will get to enjoy an exquisite moment of "You see? I told you so!" - right there in the very Presence of God Himself! Anyway, the world is richer in Love because of all that Ken has brought to it, and we will always love remembering him for the countless ways he graced our own lives! -Woody Whitlock
Oh dear Ken. How you will be missed. Your humble, quiet, intelligent, soft spoken, peaceful manner was a gift to all who crossed your path in your 92 full years of life! What a beautiful legacy you leave for us all. Thank you. You were a scholar and led a rich and pure life.I felt intimidated the first time I was going to meet you in Canada; my sisters new husband Ken the philosophy professor. I was concerned that I might sound like an idiot. But boy was I wrong! You were so interesting and easy to talk to. You were so fun to be around. What fond memories i cherish. An absolute pleasure to have you as part of the family. I know my sister Lea was the happiest in her life with you in it. What a beautiful couple. You’re a great guy Ken and I love you my brother in law. I am so, so very sorry that you suffered so deeply at the end. You fought so very hard. Peace be with you Ken. Rest In Peace my brother. -Leslie Shelemey
Ken Klein was an amazing influence on the lives of Bill and Joann Hussmann. We first came to know him as our director at the Cambridge Program in September, 1970. In one semester, his passion for teaching, for learning about the world, his willingness to lead groups of students on adventures through the rigors of bus trips and discussions in pubs changed our ways of looking at the world and how we wanted to live our lives. He and Mary were wonderful helps to us during that semester. As life would have it, when we first married our apartment was across the street from Ken and Mary's home on Jefferson St during my tenure at law school. While we parted company thereafter, we visited from time to time-- quite infrequently-- but Ken's enthusiasm for his students-- even when we met with him nearly 50 years after our Cambridge experience-- never reduced. We so enjoyed meeting Lea and know she played a wonderful part in his rich and full life. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of Ken's family. We all were so blessed to have him in our lives. -Bill and Joann Hussmann
I liked Ken from our first meeting, when he rode his motorcycle to St. Albert, AB and we met for the first time. Our friendship grew over the years, and when Ken and Lea married, Ken became my son in law. After many visits and much together time in Valparaiso, and at the Lake, Ken and I became very good friends as well as relatives. I treasure memories of many talks & discussions with Ken over coffee in Valpo, and later via e-mail and texting when I was back home. Ken was a special friend to me and I will miss him very much. -Lorraine Shelemey