Santa Monica College has received a gift of $1.025 million from Santa Monica couple Conrad Lee and Joan Dempsey Klein to create the Conrad Lee Klein Fund for Online Education.
The donation marks the largest gift ever received by the SMC Foundation in support of technology, SMC officials said.
The Kleins, who credit higher education for helping them overcome impoverished childhoods and achieve professional and financial success, have specified that $1 million 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.”
SMC President Chui L. Tsang said online education provides an increasingly vital alternative to the traditional college classroom setting.
“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,” he said.
Conrad Klein, who was born in New York, got his undergraduate degree in business from the New York University 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, and later earned a law degree at UCLA.
Today, 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 is the presiding justice of the California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division Three, and the most senior appellate justice in the state.
Conrad Klein will become a member of SMC’s Advisory Committee for the Academy on Entertainment and Technology (AET), which officials say is expected to be a key source of input to Tsang in preparation for the expansion of the AET Campus and incorporation of new academic disciplines.
In addition to the $1 million-plus 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.”