Bob Klaeger ‘69, MCVA chair, to Retire after 41 Years
As the university prepares for commencement, we also prepare to bid farewell to Robert Klaeger ‘69, beloved chair of Dyson College’s Media, Communications and Visual Arts (MCVA) department on the Pleasantville campus. Bob will retire on August 31, 2017 after 41 years of service.
Bob assumed the chairship in 1984 and has overseen the department’s growth and transformation into a training ground for talented young people who would go on to careers at NBCUniversal, A&E Television Networks, and the like.
Nira Herrmann, dean of Dyson College, said, “Bob Klaeger has led his department with a great deal of vision for the future and for preparing our students with hands –on skills so they could hit the ground running wherever they ended up working. He has overseen the expansion of the Communications Center as well as the number of faculty and academic programs in the department. He has brought highly experienced faculty to Pace with both practical and theoretical knowledge that helped create and build the exciting programs in the three new majors - public relations, digital journalism, and digital cinema and filmmaking - developed under his watch. And, he has overseen the expansion and modernization of our labs, studios and sound stages in the Communications Center to be state-of-the-art.”
And, he knows a state-of-the-art setting when he sees one. One could say that he was born into the business. Bob’s father owned and operated a small production company in New York City and produced documentaries, industrials and TV commercials. As a teenager, Bob would summer intern at his dad’s shop, running canisters of film to and from the processing lab. He would go on to join the apprentice editor union, graduate from Pace with a degree in English Literature, and then on to graduate school at UConn where he earned a degree in technical theater in 1971.
Bob was part of the second class of students to graduate from the Pleasantville campus. At the time, most instructors addressed students as mister or miss, women were required to wear skirts and dresses to class, as pants were verboten, and for men, the dress code required that they wear a tie and jacket. Bob’s analytical mind seized upon the loophole in the code. He shared this story, “It was the last day of instruction for my English composition class. The day was hot and there was no air conditioning in the classrooms. On the spur of the moment, in the back stairwell of Willcox Hall, I said to my friends Kent Murphy and Tom Morrera, ‘Let’s go to class without our shirts!’ After all, the rules didn’t say anything about not wearing shirts. The three of us went to class wearing only our jackets and ties. On this day, it happened that there was a guy who showed up without a tie. The instructor, Nick Catalano, was only about six or seven years older than us. Catalano looked at us. He looked at the kid without a tie. He turned to him and said, ‘I’m sorry, you aren’t wearing a tie. You have to leave.’ The classroom burst into laughter. It was just wonderful.”
To this day, Bob expresses himself through dress. Members of the Pleasantville campus community may recognize him as the dapper gentleman whose signature look is an impeccably cut jacket and a bow tie.
“I started wearing bow ties in the fall of 2003, when the department of English and Communications split into two departments, creating the new and stand- alone Media, Communications and Visual Arts Department. I'd been chair of English and Communications for 18 years and it seemed like a way to make a fresh start. I always wanted to look like a college professor from Central Casting anyway,” Bob explained.
I’ve had a pretty good run.
In August of 2016, he told his partner of 22 years, Elgelein, that he was thinking of retiring. “It’s important to know when to go. I got to thinking that it’s probably about time to turn it over to younger people who are in tune with the newest technology and perhaps have a clearer vision of the future. I’m 70 now, been here for 41 years and I’ve had a pretty good run,” Bob said.
He is most proud of the collegiality that exists among faculty, and that their office doors are always open to one another. He said, “it’s the fellowship among faculty members I’ll miss very much, and I’ll miss interacting with students outside of the classroom. In the lab there is an area where students work, and to just sit there and talk with them is a very nice thing.”
He is looking forward to spending time with Elgelein, a retired director of the Child Guidance Center of Southern Connecticut, who he met on a blind date and whom he describes as the “best thing that ever happened to me.” He also has a stack of books “as tall as I am” to get through, all non-fiction and mostly military history. They will travel, and he’ll get to work on building model ships and teaching video at a senior center near his home.
“Bob’s legacy will be felt for many years to come. All of us Dyson College will miss him greatly – he has been the voice of reason, a sage counselor, a keeper of Dyson and Pace lore from ‘the good old days,’ and an esteemed colleague. We wish him all the very best in this new chapter of his life,” said Dean Herrmann.
Bob has helped to shape the minds of thousands of students who have passed through his classroom door. Here is what a few of them have to say about him.
I have so much to say…I was a student of Bob’s when I was at Pace so I’ve known him since 1981. He was my mentor, my friend and my influence to come to Pace to teach. He has left an impact on all of us that will never go away and the department won’t be the same without him. He totally changed the major. He fought hard for space, equipment and recognition and has put us on the map for media, communications and visual arts in New York. It is all because of Bob.
— Maria Luskay ‘84
Program Director, MA in Media and Communication Arts
I am still connected to many students from my graduating class. Normally this wouldn’t be noteworthy, but I came back to school after initially dropping out and I’m almost five years older than most of them. Age notwithstanding, many of us work in production and when we get together socially, we inevitably tell stories about Professor Klaeger, or ask if anyone has heard from him or if anyone has heard stories about him. While he may not believe it, he has definitely left an indelible mark on a multitude of lives, and not just for his sharp bow ties.
— Mike McGrath ‘07
Senior Manager, Marketing Operations at NBC Sports
When I was considering majors, a friend suggested I seek Professor Klaeger as my academic adviser. I'll never forget, when we first met. He shook my hand and said with a smile, 'Welcome aboard. It's good to have you.' He encouraged me to look deeper into films and analyze every frame. His courses helped fuel my interest in film.
— Lou Guaneri ’11,‘13
Associate Producer for A&E Networks and MCVA adjunct professor
As a sophomore in college, I was quite reserved and nervous when I sat in a classroom with him for the first time, perhaps it was the bowtie. I took his British Film course, and he would slowly question us about the symbolism and underlying themes in the narrative. He would tell us about growing up during the Golden Age of film and playing with the pieces of film that his father had edited. I like to imagine directors, such as Charles Laughton, Orson Wells, and Stanley Kubrick (among his favorites), would get a kick out of his classes, and watching him foster a love for film with a new generation of filmmakers and storytellers.
— Caitlin Kirschbaum ’10, ‘12
MCVA adjunct professor