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Ken and Natalie Klein support KDFC with $1 million gift

Allison Engelby Allison Engel
The Kleins’ gift is the largest single contribution ever received in USC Radio’s 66-year history.
Photo: The Kleins’ gift is the largest single contribution ever received in USC Radio’s 66-year history.

USC Trustee Ken Klein ’82 and his wife, Natalie, co-chair of the advisory board for Classical KDFC Radio in San Francisco, have given $1 million to support the station. Their gift will provide initial funding for the station’s endowment as part of Classical KDFC’s $10 million “For the Music” campaign.

The Kleins’ gift is the largest single contribution ever received in the 66-year history of USC Radio, which purchased KDFC in 2011. USC Radio also owns Classical KUSC in Los Angeles. These stations are two of the largest and most-listened-to public radio and nonprofit classical music stations in the nation. More than 1 million Californians listen to USC Radio stations each week.

“Natalie and Ken Klein stand among USC’s most dedicated supporters, and their commitment to classical radio is evidenced by their extraordinary generosity,” said USC President C. L. Max Nikias. “Their exceptional gift will do so much to bring classical music to listeners throughout our state.”

USC Radio President Brenda Barnes added: “This transformative gift for KDFC is vital to building our endowment and will encourage others to give to our campaign. We are so grateful to Natalie and Ken for their incredible support.”

Barnes said that in addition to the couple’s financial gift, “Natalie Klein’s leadership has also been critical in helping us embed the station in the community and recruit new members to our advisory board.”

Ken Klein, who earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and biomedical engineering from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, has served on the USC Board of Trustees since 2009. He is also a USC Distinguished Alumnus and a member of USC Viterbi’s Board of Councilors. Klein is chairman, CEO and president of the software company Wind River, based in Alameda, Calif., which he joined in 2004, leading a turnaround that resulted in Wind River’s acquisition by Intel Corp. in 2009.

“I care deeply about preserving classical music,” he said. “I see the preservation of this station as linking what the university is doing with the arts to the needs of the Bay Area community, which is a very important community to USC in terms of incoming students and alumni. With its six arts schools and its incredible support of world-class classical music, USC and KDFC share a common love of the arts.”

The idea for the Kleins’ gift evolved after Barnes gained approval from the Board of Trustees to purchase KDFC and additional stations in San Francisco and Napa/Sonoma. USC Radio then converted the operation from a commercial station to a public, nonprofit one and restored the station’s signal to the South Bay. During her conversations with trustees, Barnes frequently spoke with Ken Klein, who grew up playing classical piano.

Natalie Klein, who began playing classical guitar as a child, shares her husband’s interest in classical music and KDFC, which led her to join and co-chair the station’s advisory board two years ago. A graduate of the Penn State College of Engineering with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, she also studied painting and drawing for years. She has worked in oil- and gas-related industries as well as in the computer hardware and software fields.

Natalie Klein said she recognizes the importance of an endowment for the station, having lived through the 18 months when KDFC was off the air in the Peninsula and South Bay while a new frequency was purchased.

“The San Francisco area takes its classical music very seriously, and I wanted to help preserve that,” she said. “Even more than KDFC itself, I feel that classical music is like art in the Louvre or other museums throughout the world. It’s an important piece of history and very important piece of our culture for future generations. Having it on the radio is like a museum of the airways, bringing this art to everyone.”

This is not the Kleins’ first gift to USC. In 2006, the couple founded USC’s Klein Institute for Undergraduate Engineering Life to enhance student life experiences beyond the classroom. The institute focuses on leadership, cross-disciplinary activities, service learning and globalization projects.

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