|December 2, 2010|
College mourns Professor Frederick Klemm
Frederick A. Klemm, the professor emeritus of German known as “the father of Terms Abroad,” died Monday, Nov. 29, 2010. He was 97.
Klemm, who taught at Union from 1947 to 1978, inaugurated the College’s Terms Abroad program by guiding a group of 28 students to Vienna, Austria in spring 1969.
An inveterate traveler with an unflappable manner and a keen attention to detail, Klemm was well-suited to lead students in foreign lands. He traveled widely with his wife, Eleanor (Frau Klemm to students), whom he credited as the inspiration for what he called “Union’s first organized invasion into classrooms abroad.” He visited 102 countries and all 50 U.S. states.
Klemm and his students were well aware of their pioneering role.
“We were like the Mercury astronauts,” said Ira Rutkow ’70. “We knew this would change Union College.” Stephen J. Ciesinski ’70 said, “We knew this was kind of an experiment, and we all wanted to make it work.”
Klemm was director of Terms Abroad from 1970 through 1977. He also served as chair of Modern Languages and chair of the Humanities division. As director of the Extension Division of evening classes and the GE apprentice program, Klemm got to know a number of rising engineers and Navy officers. One was future President Jimmy Carter, who trained for eight months under the Union-GE program.
A scholar, Klemm did research on German dramatist Gerhart Hauptmann, author of the novella, "The Heretic of Soana." He wrote articles in Germanic Review, German Quarterly, Modern Language Review, American-German Review and Monatshefte. He served as director of the New York State Federation of Foreign Language Teachers, vice president of the American Association of Teachers of German, and secretary of the German Literature Section of the Modern Language Association.
He earned an undergraduate degree from Dickinson College, a master’s from Duke University and a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania. He served in the U.S. Army from 1943 to 1946.
A longtime resident of Regent Street in Niskayuna, he was active in the community. He served as president of the Grand Boulevard Fire Company, chair of the Board of Trustees for the Union Presbyterian Church, director of Planned Parenthood’s annual drive and a member of the consolidation committee for Niskayuna schools. He received the Capital District Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.
Since 1996, Klemm lived at the Beverwyck Retirement Community in Slingerlands, N.Y., a suburb of Albany, and made regular visits to campus. He was a guest of honor last year at a tribute dinner for Ciesinski, past chairman of the Board of Trustees and a student on the 1969 Vienna trip. In 2002, Klemm and his wife were honored by the College, and his photograph was unveiled in the International Programs office. He received the Faculty Meritorious Service Award from the Alumni Council when he retired in 1978.
Survivors include two sons, Dr. R. Christopher Klemm of Corvallis, Ore., and W. Jeffrey Klemm of McLean, Va.; and a daughter, Virginia K. Wells of Springfield, Va., and her husband, Dr. William C. Wells ’64. He is also survived by a dear friend, Adelaide deBeer Muhlfelder at Beverwyck. He was predeceased by a son, Edward Jonathan Klemm.
Funeral services are private.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Frederick A. and Eleanor G. Klemm Scholarship at Union College.