This past week, we lost a legend in the broadcast industry and someone who it was my privilege and honor to know.
Lew Klein, philanthropist, educator and broadcast pioneer died at 91.
If you’ve never heard of Lew Klein, you probably aren’t from Philly or you didn’t go to Temple University. Still, I assure you, if you’ve ever watched TV, he impacted your life.
American Bandstand? Dick Clark? Lew was behind both. The Action News brand? He first created it. Weather in newscasts? Romper Room? Lew was a pioneer behind all of this. At one point he owned 3 television stations and a media company.
But, I betcha money, wherever you live, there’s been a broadcaster in your city who was mentored by Lew.
For 67 years, this millionaire coached and motivated thousands of broadcasters, teaching at Temple University. He’d been doing it so long, some of the broadcasters who made it under his tutelage, sent their kids to him too. And those graduates worked and continue to work in TV markets all over the country.
Up until a few months ago, Lew could still be seen in the building with his name on it: The Lew Klein College of Media and Communication. Yes, he was part of a multi-million dollar gift to name the college. But, long before that gift, he had been, and I would argue still is, the heart and soul of the place.
I guess you could say Lew mentored me too. I didn’t go to Temple, but for the last four years, I’ve been the Director of Career Services for media and communication students.
And that’s where Lew and I shared our common passion, to launch our students into the industry we love.
Lew WAS the career center, the placement office, the career coach for broadcasting students long before anyone ever formalized that role. He was it! If you showed a passion and interest in the business, Lew would make a phone call to one of his many former students and place you somewhere for a job or internship.
Through this last year, he continued to be in the classroom, relevant as ever; teaching students how to stand out in their internships, network, write thank you notes, hone their writing and production skills, pushing them to be their best and have a strong work ethic.
Sometimes, he’d bring me in to visit his class, but in the end, I got to be a lucky recipient of Lew’s lessons too. He preached the secret of success: Temple and his 3 T’s: timing, tenacity, and talent.
But I believe the thing that made Lew so spectacular throughout his career and life was that he was always “paying it forward” with his time and energy.
He was the lifeblood of the Philadelphia Police Athletic League so kids in the most economically challenged neighborhoods had wonderful after school activities. God help you if you were a general manager of a Philly TV station and you didn’t get involved. Lew would make sure the most powerful in media were giving back to the community too.
He was a founding member of NATPE, The National Association of Television Program Executives.
The Lew Klein Excellence in the Media Awards annual luncheon he oversaw raised thousands of dollars for the scholarships every year and will continue to do so. Everyone wanted to be in his presence and receive a “Lewie”.
Even in the last couple of years, Lew and his wife Janet, continued to travel, ever curious and exploring everything new or wonderful to see.
With Lew’s permission, I created this sticker for our graduates to wear a couple of years ago: Live Like Lew.
I made it because I thought, and still believe, if you Live Like Lew, or just try to live like Lew, then you are truly living your best life.
Lew loved the sticker. He wore it to one graduation. He loved that I put his picture up on our career center wall. It wasn’t an ego thing. He would never ask for such a thing. But I think he just was so happy that this was my way of promising him, his mission, his vision for students and the commitment he had to help improve their lives and careers would be a part of the career center too.
I guess we all knew we were on borrowed time. He would fight off one illness or another and then come fighting back alive and vibrant as ever.
We can’t believe we won’t see him again. He won’t be pulling us aside and saying, I want you to try to help such and such student or graduate. He or she needs an internship or job. Give so and so a call.
For those of us who knew him, got to share even a tiny bit of time with him; well it was all a gift. He won’t ever be gone. Lew lived to give and that legacy will keep on going.