Digital Media Professorship Honors a Beloved Teacher

Gift pays tribute to the legacy of political scientist Don Klein
Donald W. Klein

Devoted to Tufts students, Donald W. Klein infused his teaching with “energy and passion.”

A new endowed professorship in media studies honors the legacy of a media-savvy professor who combined his expertise on China with dedication to teaching students how to write clearly and vigorously.

Made possible with a gift to the School of Arts and Sciences, the Donald W. Klein Professorship in Media Studies will bring to Tufts a professor of the practice who specializes in the digital media industry.

The initial appointment will be in the Film and Media Studies program. Future professorships could be held by a social scientist in economics, political science, sociology, or psychology, with a secondary appointment in Film and Media Studies.

James Glaser, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, said the appointment is a forward-looking investment given the explosive growth of digital media. The category spans text, images, audio, music, and video, across websites, podcasts, and social media platforms.

“Today’s students seek to understand the business models and economic traits of an ever-evolving media industry in both domestic and global markets,” he said. “As potential media creators, they will need to have a basic understanding of the complex forces driving the media industry and the impact they have on society.” 

Klein, who taught in the Department of Political Science for 23 years, was an expert on contemporary China who contributed articles to the Boston Globe. His commitment to writing for the intelligent lay reader made shifts in Chinese politics accessible to the general public.

“His op-eds were always clear and helpful,” said Sol Gittleman, the Alice and Nathan Gantcher University Professor Emeritus and former provost, in 2018, when Klein died at age 88. “He was our public intellectual on Asian policies and changes that were very important, but often difficult to understand.”

Klein’s son, Jeff Klein, A89, said his father cared deeply about communicating with integrity and brought that passion to bear on a popular course entitled Politics in the Media.

“This is such a wonderful tribute to my father,” he said. “His former students have never forgotten the energy and passion he brought to each lecture or his genuine interest in their success beyond Tufts. It's also a tribute to his respect for journalism and communication. My father would be most pleased to have his name associated with the next generation of great teachers and scholars at Tufts.”

Klein, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Florida and a Ph.D. at Columbia, joined Tufts’ Department of Political Science as a lecturer in 1973. By then, he was a trailblazing journalist known for his stories on “ping-pong diplomacy,” or the thawing of relations between the United States and China. Klein would go on to become a leading expert on China’s economy and politics.

Glaser said Klein never let academic credentials obscure his first obligation: to write with clarity and impact. Every word had to earn its place. That timeless guide, Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, was a required resource for his students.

“Former students remember him as cultivating their ability to communicate well,” said Glaser. “That’s certainly no less important today in digital media than it was when students were handing in typewritten term papers. Those values are timeless, and with this generous gift, we will ensure that they endure.”