Susan Kline is a self-confessed workaholic and a passionate advocate for education. She has lived her beliefs throughout her career, earning a degree in elementary education from Plymouth State, followed by a master’s in educational administration from Eastern Michigan University, with a certificate to teach emotionally disturbed children. She taught special education in Texas and California, then in 1984 took a tremendous entrepreneurial leap and founded the eponymously named Kline School in Costa Mesa, CA, to serve children from kindergarten through eighth grade.
Over the course of its 32-year history, the school educated hundreds of children and earned recognition from the U.S. Congress as a leading edge elementary school. Embracing a learning approach that emphasized enhanced individual attention, the school sought to develop students who were effective communicators, complex and innovative thinkers, independent workers, technologically literate, and socially responsible. “As a student at Plymouth State, I learned the importance of looking at the whole person,” says Kline, “so that’s what I sought to do at my school. Our curriculum was not textbook driven—it was individualized and project-based,” she continues. “When I studied with Dr. Michael Fischler at Plymouth State, he concentrated on helping his students identify their better selves, and that was a philosophy that stuck with me.”
“At Kline School, Susan was teaching in Clusters before Clusters were cool,” observes Hobson. “She embodies the ideal of Plymouth State: to graduate students who are tomorrow changers.”
The University recognized Kline for her accomplishments in 2013, awarding her the Alumni Achievement Award for contributing to her profession, Plymouth State, and the improvement of society. In 2015, Kline closed her school to pursue other opportunities. She remains involved with education, however, serving as a visiting committee chair to evaluate educational programs for the Accrediting Commission of Schools, Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Kline has also remained active in Plymouth State’s educational mission since graduating, providing financial support for various initiatives over the years. She has donated to the Sally Boland Scholarship in recognition of the late English professor’s impact on her life—“Dr. Boland’s unassuming style and broad-mindedness influenced me greatly”—and has also made gifts to the Mark Sylvestre Planetarium at the Boyd Science Center and the Fischler Family Endowed Scholarship Fund, a fund established by Michael Fischler.
“The connection I made with Dr. Fischler and other faculty influenced not only my career path, but my character,” Kline observes. “As I look back, their three Rs are the best yet: be Respectful, Responsible, and Responsive.”
Most recently, Kline recognized a new opportunity to amplify her legacy of giving back to Plymouth State, establishing a bequest intent to leave 50 percent of her estate to the University at her passing, a significant gift that she hopes will provide opportunities for a host of future Plymouth State students. “I really feel good about this gift, and I like the way that Plymouth State has advised me of giving opportunities in a sensitive, respectful way over the years. The development staff keeps in touch appropriately—if there’s a funding opportunity they think may be of interest, they let me know.”
Kline’s generous bequest will support unrestricted scholarships at the University, supplementing the Plymouth Opportunity Scholarship created in November of 2017 by PSU Director of Development John Scheinman ’19P and his wife Susan. “Education solves the world’s problems,” says Sheinman. “It’s the greatest gift you can give, and Susan and I wholeheartedly believe that education should be affordable for everyone.” Kline couldn’t agree more. “Supporting unrestricted scholarships is tremendously important to me. Education shouldn’t just be for the rich.”
Susan Kline cites a quote widely attributed to Winston Churchill—“You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.”—as a guiding principle for her life. “That is my mantra as well, and I’ve always been happy to give to Plymouth State,” says Kline. “Kline School is no longer in operation, so supporting educational initiatives at the University is a wonderful way for me to continue to serve the kids.”
Kline is certain that her donations will be used wisely. “I’m confident that Plymouth State will be a good steward of my money—the school can take a dollar and really make it work. I think that anyone who’s in a position to make a gift to the University should feel comfortable doing so. Your money will be well managed, and your gift will make a difference in someone’s life.”
Photo Credit: Jesse Sullivan ’20