Alumni Jim and Kim Klescewski pledge their support to keep access to higher education alive for the next generation of CSUEB students
BY SARAH STANEK
A few years ago, Jim Klescewski ’77, MBA ’85 found himself drawn back to his alma mater. Even though he had met his wife, Kim Klescewski ’79, in college, they hadn’t stayed in touch or revisited the Hayward campus since graduation. He wanted to know what a difference 20 years could make.
“I had a passion to get reconnected,” says Jim Klescewski, who often goes by Jim K., to help those struggling to pronounce his last name. (It’s kleh-SESS-kee, for the record.)
Klescewski, the CFO at RS Investments in San Francisco, had heard about changes at Cal State East Bay, which intrigued him. At the urging of his friend and colleague Lou Miramontes ’76, Jim Klescewski made his way back to CSUEB to find, as he says, “it’s really a cool school” that remained focused on serving students like he and his wife had been.
He saw the new student union, Pioneer Heights student apartments, and a diverse student population. He also saw the results of state funding cuts to the California State University system. Moved to do what they could to keep college within reach for today’s students, the Klescewskis recently made a commitment to support scholarships in the College of Business and Economics.
Though they both attended Dublin High School, the Klescewskis met while they were students at then-Cal State Hayward; he majoring in accounting, she in psychology. Other than diplomas, however, they don’t have much in the way of souvenirs to commemorate those years.
For one thing, they were busy, with school, work, and socializing; Kim Klescewski says “somehow we found plenty of time for all of that.” But as the first in their families to go to college, they both paid their own way — math-minded Jim tallying every nickel he spent on books and courses — with limited parental support. That left little room in the budget for mementos.
The Klescewskis moved into their home in San Ramon 31 years ago, just after getting married. At the time, the huge Bishop Ranch business park, just blocks from their neighborhood, was still agricultural land. Within 20 years, its development had transformed the city. As they raised their three children and moved to new jobs, they watched the area grow and expand, bringing both positives and negatives.
More and more businesses were attracted to the area, which became more culturally diverse and connected. But the cost of living and cost of education were rising, which the Klescewskis saw firsthand as their children went off to college, all at CSU schools. They recognized that although a college degree was as critical to success as ever, it was becoming harder for students to support themselves while in school. Jim Klescewski saw a chance for his family to help students who were “in the same space we were.”
An inclusive environment like CSUEB helps attract students, he says, and the real-world curriculum keeps the focus on jobs. Kim Klescewski also points out that students get a wide range of educational experiences in college, and exposure to multiple subjects beyond their major. Since graduating, she’s worked at banks, as a book editor, and in a number of fields unconnected to her college degree.
Graduating from college, especially for first generation students like the Klescewskis and many current CSUEB students, is also a huge personal achievement. “It takes perseverance to show you can stick it out,” says Kim Klescewski,
“And it’s confidence building, to say you did it,” her husband adds. In his career he’s seen whole industries transformed by technologies, as new positions are created and job descriptions change. Succeeding in that environment requires discipline and a solid foundation — like those provided by a college education.
With their support, the Klescewskis want to ensure that the opportunities they enjoyed are available to the next generation of CSUEB students. As a trustee of the Cal State East Bay Educational Foundation, Jim Klescewski says he appreciates that the University has a strong long-term plan that will keep quality higher education accessible and prepare students for an increasingly competitive and technical job market, in the Bay Area and beyond.
Still, he adds, there will always be changes ahead, and his advice for today’s students is to be ready to embrace it. “Maximize what you learn in a changing environment,” he says. And not just in college, but throughout life. “You may do something different than what you were hired to do. College can help you prepare for that.”