URI History Professor honored by alma mater

KINGSTON, R.I. — December 15, 2000 — Called the premier railroad historian in the country, University of Rhode Island professor Maury Klein has laid tracks in a number of areas, including researching, writing, teaching, and acting. A renowned and well-published historian, he has not only studied the legacies of people in history, he has become quite a story himself. Most recently, Klein, of Narragansett, received two prestigious awards from his alma mater, Knox College, in Illinois: the 2001 Alumni Achievement Award and an honorary doctorate. The Knox College Alumni Association will present Klein with its Alumni Achievement Award at its Founder’s Day Celebration in February. The award is given annually to three alumni in recognition of their meritorious career achievements. The honorary degree will be conferred upon Klein during the college’s commencement exercises in June. The honorary degree has been conferred annually since it was first given in 1860 to Abraham Lincoln and honors men and women who have had distinguished careers. “It’s incredibly flattering to receive an honorary degree from your alma mater. I have very strong feelings about my college, and I think it taught me more than anything else has about the values of life,” said Klein. Klein’s experiences at Knox College led him to delve into the subject of history. “I’m interested in people. When I was in college, I realized you could teach a number of different areas if you teach history. I like finding out why people do what they do and how they do it. I became particularly interested in business history while at college, because it seems that business history is at the center of all history,” explained Klein. Klein graduated from Knox College in 1960 with a bachelor of arts degree, and later came to URI in 1964 as an instructor. He earned his master’s and doctoral degrees at Emory University. He has been a professor of history since 1973. Since then Klein has been an avid writer, and has published 11 books and authored numerous articles for scholarly journals and magazines. His 12th book, Rainbow’s End: The Crash of 1929, is going to press. “When I came here I knew what I wanted to do: I wanted to write. And that’s what I’ve done,” said Klein. Three of his books have been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, including The Life and Legend of E.H. Harriman, The Flowering of the Third America: The Making of an Organizational Society, and The Life and Legend of Jay Gould. The Life and Legend of Jay Gould, which chronicles North America’s railroading history, also received the prestigious Outstanding Book Award given by The Railway & Locomotive Historical Society. He also received this same award for Union Pacific: The Birth, 1862-1893. Klein was the first person to be honored twice with the Outstanding Book Award. Klein has been involved with Trinity Repertory Co. and its Humanities Program, which in 1982-83 won a national award as the best humanities program in the United States. Klein conceived the program’s original idea of Theatre as a Cultural Document. Through the funding of a grant, essayists commented on Trinity’s plays, and those pieces were distributed before the shows and discussed afterwards. Klein served as a consultant, author, panelist, and moderator of the program. Klein has also acted in almost 20 plays here at URI, and served as acting chair of the Theatre Department twice. Not surprisingly, some of his favorite shows were William Shakespeare’s histories and other period shows. He has also served as director of the honors program for six years, chairman of the Faculty Senate, chairman of the arts council, chairman of the provost evaluation committee, and many other committees. Even though his life can get extremely busy, Klein has no regrets that this was the path he chose while at Knox College. “I am still as happy and as excited to go to work every morning as I was when I started thirty years ago,” remarked Klein. For Information: Maury Klein, 401-874-5486, Jennifer Smith, 401-874-2116