SMC — Santa Monica College has received a gift of $1,025,000 from Santa Monica couple Conrad Lee Klein and Joan Dempsey Klein to expand the number of classes offered online, making it the largest gift ever received by the SMC Foundation in support of technology, college officials announced Tuesday.
The Kleins, who credit higher education for helping them overcome impoverished childhoods and achieve professional and financial success, have specified that $1 million dollars of the fund be designated to maintain and support SMC’s online education program. The remaining $25,000 is to be made available for other school priorities.
“Joan and I both understand the problems of poverty,” said Conrad Lee Klein, who spent time in an orphanage and foster homes as a child. “We were fortunate enough to overcome them. We want to try to help others so they too can find their way up the ladder to success. We believe that through technology you can reach students of all economic levels.”
Currently, about 20 percent of Santa Monica students take some or all of their classes online each semester, said Donald Girard, senior director of government relations. In the 2011-12 academic year, the college offered about 725 online courses.
“Online education provides an increasingly vital alternative to the traditional college classroom setting,” said SMC President Dr. Chui L. Tsang. “Working people, parents, individuals with disabilities, people who live outside the Santa Monica area and many others who cannot regularly attend classes on campus will benefit immensely from this extremely generous gift.”
Conrad Lee Klein, who was born in New York, got his undergraduate degree in business from the NYU Stern School of Business before earning a juris doctorate from NYU Law School and masters of law from USC Law School. Joan Klein, a native Californian, attended San Diego State College, where she earned a degree in teaching. She then went on to get a law degree at UCLA.
Conrad Lee Klein is the trustee of the Mark Hughes Family Trust and president of the Mark Hughes Charity Foundation. He also served for two decades as outside legal counsel to Mark Hughes, the late founder and president of Herbalife. Joan Klein is the presiding justice of the California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division Three, and the most senior appellate justice in the state of California. She is also the co-founder and first president of the National Association of Women Judges.
Conrad Klein will become a member of SMC’s Advisory Committee for the Academy on Entertainment and Technology (AET). This committee will be a key source of input to the college president in preparation for the expansion of the AET Campus and incorporation of new academic disciplines.
In addition to the $1 million gift to SMC, the Kleins also contributed $2 million to UCLA School of Law for scholarships.
“The Kleins’ donation is an extraordinary act of generosity for which the Santa Monica College Foundation is extremely grateful,” said Foundation Executive Director Vanessa Butler. “This gift will allow SMC to use widely available technology to broaden the scope of its offerings and serve many more students throughout the community and the state.”