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UC Mourns M.J. Klyn, Great Living Cincinnatian

M.J. Klyn, who served as the first woman vice president of the University of Cincinnati, left a lasting legacy on campus and throughout her adopted city.

Date: 11/8/2013 4:00:00 AM
By: Greg Hand
Phone: (513) 556-1822

UC ingot   Mary Jeanne Klyn, first woman to serve as vice president at the University of Cincinnati, has died at the age of 89. Klyn retired from the university in 1998, after more than 22 years of service.

Visitation will be 2:00 to 5:00 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 10, at Gwen Mooney Funeral Home, 4389 Spring Grove Avenue. Mass of Christian Burial will take place 10:00 a.m., Monday, Nov. 11, at St. Peters in Chains Cathedral, 325 W. Eighth St., Downtown.

Klyn was named vice president for public affairs at the University of Cincinnati on June 23, 1975. She was hired from the Greater Cleveland Growth Association, where she was communications director.

M.J. Klyn
M.J. Klyn

During her term at UC, Klyn developed a legendary reputation as a committed, energetic and effective representative of the university. Her first task in Cincinnati was the successful campaign to bring UC into the Ohio system of higher education, accomplished on July 1, 1977.

Once the university joined the state system, Klyn labored to secure stable funding, and lobbied successfully for building projects that enabled the rebirth of the university’s campus. Among her accomplishments are funding for the Shoemaker Center, the Barrett Cancer Center, and the designation of the UC College of Engineering as one of only 10 NASA Federal Research Centers. As head of internal communications at UC, she launched a campaign to improve quality service and customer relations called “Everything says something to somebody.”

“She knew everyone in Columbus and Washington and made sure they all paid attention when UC needed something,” UC’s late President Joseph A. Steger once said. “I was in my office one day when the phone rang, and Tip O’Neill, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, was on the line, telling me what a wonderful job I was doing as President. M.J., of course, was standing by his side as he made the call.”

Throughout two decades of service to the university, Klyn also became known as a dedicated advocate for the city of Cincinnati. In 1999, she was honored as a Great Living Cincinnatian by the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce for her exemplary community service, business and civic accomplishments, awareness of the needs of others, and achievements that have brought favorable attention to the Cincinnati area. She served for 20 years on the board of the Greater Cincinnati Convention and Visitor's Bureau, and earned its first Spirit of Cincinnati Chairman's Award. She also served on the board of public television station WCET. Women in Communications honored her with its Movers and Shakers Award.

Klyn held several “firsts” for women in retailing, banking, and advertising in the Cleveland area before being recruited by the University of Cincinnati. Born in Freeport, Illinois on July 19, 1924, she earned a degree in communications from Northwestern University in 1946 and later studied technical writing at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. In 1958 she went to work as marketing director for the Lake County National Bank in Painesville, Ohio.

She was hired to restructure the Women’s City Club of Cleveland in 1960 and joined the Halle Brothers department store chain a year later as public relations director. Her work there caught the attention of Cleveland’s largest agency, Griswold-Eshelman Advertising, who recruited her as their first woman account executive in 1964. She joined the Marschalk Company in 1969 to create that agency’s public relations division.

In 1970, the new Cleveland Growth Association, a 5,300-member expanded Chamber of Commerce, selected Klyn as communications director. In that role, she reported to a 90-member board representing business interests in a five-county region. She created a comprehensive marketing plan for Greater Cleveland, based on the tagline, “The best things in life are here!”

Quotes about M.J. Klyn:

UC President Joseph A. Steger (1998)
 “It is very rare that we can say in truth that someone is irreplaceable, but M.J. truly is. She has helped orchestrate most of the major strides achieved by the university over the past two decades. There is no question that she is beloved by everyone.”

U.S. Senator Rob Portman (1999)
“M.J. makes friends wherever she goes, and I feel lucky to be among them. All of us in Cincinnati are grateful for her leadership, service, and commitment to our Greater Cincinnati community.”

Cincinnati Enquirer Columnist Laura Pulfer (1999)
“She is fearless, direct, funny and completely brilliant. She has the knack of stepping on toes without breaking any bones.”

Cincinnati Post Columnist Robert White (1998)
“In an environment that favors rather bland personalities, M.J. was a roman candle, a mass of red-haired energy who rolled over anyone and everything she couldn’t charm (and she charms almost everyone.) She is smart (one of those people who keeps both the big picture and the details in focus), tough as they come and – this is the true secret of her success – she genuinely likes people.”

Executive Director of the Inter-University Council Mary Noonan (1995)
“The rest of us have to make appointments. M.J. goes where she needs to go and sees who she needs to see. I’m saying that with humor, but you have to understand the respect she commands. M.J. has special relationships with everyone.”

Cleveland Plain Dealer Editorial (1975)
“She is a public relations person, and she is an exemplary practitioner of the trade. Over the years, she has won a reputation of honesty, helpfulness and humor both among her clients and newspaperpersons. That is not to say that she doesn’t sometimes persevere until she’s a pain in the neck. What makes M.J. memorable though is a hard core of human decency.”

Cleveland Plain Dealer Columnist Bruce Ellison (1975)
“I never knew her exact title because she was never quoted. She was, instead, the information behind the news, the source ahead of the announcement, the anonymous but effective communicator of what was going on, or was about to go on, anywhere in the Cleveland area.”


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