Some people think of a person’s legacy as the property or money that they leave behind. For many, legacy is also the value system a person lives by, the relationships they build and the memories they create. Sometimes, a person makes an impact in such a way that those aspects are able to come together, ensuring that their legacy is one of profound and personal meaning. This is the case for Clara Kleiman, whose impact is both personal and substantial.
“My parents always believed that higher education was the path to self-improvement and success,” recalls Kathleen, Clara’s oldest daughter. “My mother was able to attend two years of college; my father was not able to attend college due to financial reasons. Their goal early in life was to provide a college education for each of their children, which they were able to do.”
By partnering with the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation, Tom and Clara were able to expand on that goal by establishing a fund to help students from Cedar Rapids and Marion schools to attend college.
“It was a way of giving back to the local community to support their shared value of supporting higher education,” says Kathleen.
It seems that education was always important to Clara. After graduating Salutatorian from West Union Senior High School, Clara (then Clara Halstead) attended Iowa State Teachers College; where she received a teaching degree in 1948. Her teaching career included positions in Jesup and Newhall.
Clara married Thomas Kleiman in 1959 and together they raised four children. Clara continued to work as a teacher until 1965, when she decided to stay home with her children. While she never returned to formal teaching, her parenting and homemaking skills demonstrated the same effective approach that her teaching had.
In 1980, after working for other construction companies, Tom started Kleiman Construction, Inc. While Tom
excelled in generating new business and managing projects, he did not have the experience or interest in the day-to-day financial and administrative details of running the company. Clara provided the same sharp mind and attention to detail that she had used to manage the classroom and her household to the family business.
The impact of Clara’s commitment to education can be seen throughout Iowa, and her legacy lives on through the financial support provided by the Kleiman Family Scholarship Fund, which provides a four-year renewable scholarship of $5,000 to selected area students. For example, Anna Brown (formerly Anna King) was the scholarship’s first recipient in 1999. The Kleiman’s fund helped finance her education at Iowa State University. Today, Anna carries on Clara’s love of education – she’s currently a teacher of physics and forensic science in Des Moines.
Anna and her family feel a strong connection to the Kleimans because of the support they provided to her as she pursued higher education. “I remember the day I got the letter,” she recalls, “and how ecstatic my parents were. It was a huge blessing. To this day, it almost feels like they’re family because they’ve been so generous.”
As a result, Anna and her mother, Nancy Rawson of Cedar Rapids, are always eager to talk about the impact that the Kleiman’s commitment to education has had on their lives. “I tell people all the time – oh there’s a Kleiman Construction trailer. Do you know what the Kleimans did for my daughter?”
And those construction trailers can be seen all over eastern Iowa, as Kleiman Construction has grown to be one of the largest privately-owned general contractors in the area. Clara’s passion for education was evidenced in Kleiman’s business as well – as the company has completed over 40 school projects, mostly in the Cedar Rapids and Marion area, over the past 35 years.
Because the Kleimans chose to utilize the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation as a vehicle to make an impact on education, Clara will be able to continue to touch the lives of college-aspiring students and her legacy will be felt for years to come.