Lew Klein, broadcast pioneer and longtime educator at Temple, was remembered as a mentor and close companion at a memorial service on Sunday.
The service, hosted in Lew Klein Hall in the Temple Performing Arts Center, drew hundreds from every part of Klein’s legacy, including the television industry, Temple faculty and students, and those who knew him as a friend.
Klein, who died on June 12 at the age of 91, is credited as a trailblazer in the media industry. He has launched the careers of numerous figures in broadcast journalism, most notably Dick Clark on the show American Bandstand, which Klein created in the 1950s.
Klein, the namesake of Temple’s communication’s school, was one of its major benefactors and helped many students in the Klein College of Media and Communication find roles in today’s media market.
Klein’s impact on students started more than six decades ago when he began teaching broadcast journalism courses at Temple in 1952 while an executive at WFIL-TV, now WPVI. He continued to contribute to the school, aiding in the trajectory of its journalism and media production programs.
He helped change leadership at the communications school as a member of the search committee that recruited David Boardman, the school’s dean who was then the editor-in-chief of the Seattle Times.
Though he only knew Klein for six years, they had a “close and profound” friendship, Boardman said.
“While he had a remarkable career in programs like American Bandstand, Romper Room, Channel 6 ABC News, he was teaching at Temple — not for the money, but to give back,” Boardman said.
Klein always took every opportunity and made it into a teaching moment, said Cassandra Semyon, a 2018 media studies and production alumna, who made a documentary about Klein when she was a student.
“It’s hard to put into words how special this man was,” said Semyon, who works as a broadcast news reporter at WNEP in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
A fellowship established in Klein’s name allowed Laura Smythe, a 2019 journalism alumna, to spend her summer reporting on immigration issues in Philadelphia in 2018, she said.
“That was an incredible experience that I learned a ton from reporting wise,” said Smythe, who is now a reporter for the Philadelphia Gay News. “I got to tell some important stories of family’s experiences immigrating to the U.S. from Colombia.”
Temple honored Klein for his outstanding career and multimillion-dollar gift to the communications school by naming the School of Media and Communication after him in 2017.
At the naming ceremony in March 2017, 1978 alumnus and comedian Bob Saget said Klein helped a lot of people launch careers in media production.
“But you are a conduit for a world of talent and you deserve so much,” Saget said at the naming ceremony.
Saget spoke of his memories of Klein via video message at Sunday’s service. Klein loved bringing people together from all walks of television, he said.
“You would just want to hug him or shake his hand when you saw him,” Saget added. “I will always love Lew. I will always keep him in my heart.”
Klein has spoken at every winter and spring graduation ceremony since 2017, leading graduates in the moving of the tassels.
Graduates often chant “Lew Lew Lew” during the ceremony, Boardman said at the memorial service.
During Temple’s 2018 commencement, many students expressed gratitude toward Klein’ continuous generosity to the students and the school, said Larry Stains, the assistant chair of Klein’s journalism department.
“Even though he was in a wheelchair, he still had the inner flame and vitality,” Stains added. “I remember being very struck by … how many students he continued to touch.”
During his lengthy career, Klein also worked as program director for 6ABC Action News and is credited with developing the reporting formula the station follows to this day.
Joe Conti, president of the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters, likes to say he started off as Lew Klein’s busboy. Conti knew Klein for more than 30 years and first met him and his wife Janet at the restaurant where he worked, he said.
“He would listen to you,” Conti added. “He mentored in a collaborative spirit.”
A founding father of television, Klein helped foster the public service aspect of broadcast journalism by emphasizing community-focused reporting at the places he worked, Conti said.
Klein also spent 15 years producing the Phillies’ broadcast where he helped launch the careers of announcers Richie Ashburn, Bill White and Tim McCarver.
Talking to students was the most important part of Klein’s day, said Larry Kane, a longtime television reporter in Philadelphia, at Sunday’s service.
“Lew nourished so many young people through their careers,” Kane said.
Klein was full of honesty and integrity and treated every person he met equally, no matter their background, said Stephen Klein, his son, on Sunday.
Klein’s life is often commemorated by his role in spearheading changes in the media and television industry. But for those close to him, Klein lives on in memories of him at home with his wife Janet in their garden.
Many speakers on Sunday recalled the unbreakable bond between Janet and Lew Klein.
“They shared so much of their lives together, traveled all over and had so much fun together.” said William Kuhn, Rabbi Emeritus at Congregation Rodeph Shalom. “They certainly knew how to treasure their time together.”
“Many of you knew Lew as an innovative and dynamic broadcaster and educator.” Kane said. “But did you really know the man? To know the man, you have to know the woman.”
Lew Klein’s favorite place to be was his home, Janet Klein said. Their house and garden was their own private world.
“Lew and I shared ourselves with so many, many others for so many years,” Janet Klein said. “But in the end, I do believe that our real, meaningful love was for each other.”