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In the Spotlight: John & Marsha Kleinheinz

“Education is the ultimate tool for social and economic mobility.”

By Mary Guthrie

No one in the Kleinheinz family sings. Or paints. Or plays an instrument. But they are active in the art world in a significant way.

Each year, they show their commitment to advancing the arts through the philanthropy of their family foundation, the Kleinheinz Family Endowment for the Arts and Education. In fall 2012, after daughter Marguerite Kleinheinz graduated from SMU Meadows School of the Arts with a bachelor’s degree in art history, the family made a gift of $1.5 million to establish an endowed chair in the Department of Art History at Meadows.

“We were very impressed with Marguerite’s experience at the Meadows School and SMU,” says Marsha (Harrison) Kleinheinz (B.B.A. ’83). “Meadows Dean José Bowen has made great progress during his tenure. We want to support the future of the University that is so important to our family.”

Marguerite Kleinheinz, who moved to New York after graduation to pursue her career and has worked at Christie’s and WM Capital Partners, says, “I loved all my teachers at SMU and the variety of art history classes I took.”

The family is personally involved in institutions their foundation supports, such as The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, the Van Cliburn Foundation, Stanford University, Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, North Texas Public Broadcasting and more. Marsha Kleinheinz serves on numerous boards and fundraising committees, and says her family’s philanthropy philosophy is simple: Give back to the community. “We give back to the places that gave to us,” she says.

John Kleinheinz, a Stanford University graduate, is a successful figure in the world of global finance and investments. He started his career as an investment banker for Nomura Securities and Merrill Lynch in Tokyo, New York and London. In 1996 he established Kleinheinz Capital Partners, Inc., a private investment management firm in Fort Worth. He says education is the reason they’ve been able to do so well in life.

“Education is the ultimate tool for social and economic mobility,” says John Kleinheinz. “A great education makes it possible for people to be in a position where they can provide a valuable product or service, make money or do something fantastic.”

The gift for the endowed chair will allow Meadows to recruit and retain outstanding professors and continue to build the school’s reputation as having one of the very best art history departments in the country, according to Dean Bowen.

“The Meadows Art History Department is internationally known for the caliber of its professors, who are not only teachers and scholars but mentors focused on giving students the skills to find success in the many paths open to them through the study of art history,” he says. “We are very grateful for the Kleinheinz family’s generosity and leadership in supporting these future professionals in the arts.”

The gift will make it possible for the department to expand the specializations it offers. Current areas of focus include art of the Americas, medieval and early modern art, European modernism and the history of photography. “We’ll be looking for a dynamic new scholar who can offer students a new specialization to which they’ve not previously been exposed,” says Associate Professor Janis Bergman-Carton, who also serves as the chair of the department.

“Art history students at Meadows learn about the rich cultural heritage of people around the globe. They come to understand how important it is to this and future generations to preserve those art traditions and their histories, which represent the very best of human creativity. They can take that knowledge with them into whatever career path they choose, and use it to make a lasting impact on the world around them.”

Giving to the arts can be an antidote to a sometimes- rough world, says John Kleinheinz. “I work in a very competitive environment,” he says. “I’m around people all day who may be conservative or liberal and they’re fighting; or they’re rich or poor, educated or uneducated, admire America or don’t like it. Art is one of those things that transcends all that; it competes on a whole different level.”

The $1.5 million gift from the Kleinheinz Family Endowment counts toward the $750 million goal of SMU Unbridled: The Second Century Campaign, which to date has raised more than $713 million to support student quality, faculty and academic excellence and the campus experience. The campaign coincides with SMU’s celebration of the 100th anniversary of the University’s founding in 1911 and its opening in 1915.

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