Five months is a long time to be away from Harding’s community. But for one professor, Harding was never very far away. Dr. Kevin Klein, previously the head of Harding’s History and Political Science Department took temporary leave when he discovered he had throat cancer last September.
He has returned and shared his story with the writers of the Bison.
“I don’t know how prayer works, but I have been lifted up in prayer millions of times in these past months because of the church, fully poured out and deeply flowing,” said Klein.
Klein said when choosing a university his parents were always supportive of his decisions, but they were also very stern in their decision to aid him financially if he chose to pursue a degree from Harding. So that is what he did.
Klein graduated from Harding with a bachelor’s in history and went on to pursue a doctorate in history at Florida State University.
At the time of his graduate work in Tallahassee, Klein was a part of the Call Street Church of Christ.
“(The church) had this tremendous reputation for their graduate student ministry,” Klein said. “The students that went through Call Street got through grad school.”
He said Call Street created a sort-of ‘mafia’ for Christian colleges, Harding included. Dr. David Burks, Dr. Mike James and Dr. James W. Carr are among several of the recognizable figures from Harding’s institution who studied at Florida State and attended the Call Street congregation.
“No one wants to move back in with their parents after college graduation, but that is what I had to do. And that is what my friend Eric did,” Klein said.
They both were instrumental in taking care of a dilapidated building purchased by the Call Street Church. Klein said he knew how to fix things, how to live with broken things, and how to get different people to live under one roof. Klein attributes his leadership to many of the odd jobs and positions he had through college and grad school, and to the people who were a part of shaping that leadership.
“Mike James and Jimmy Carr were there while I was there,” Klein said. “They had heard me teach class and put a bug in my ear to apply for a teaching position at Harding. Then they put a bug in Tom Howard’s ear to hear me out.”
Klein visited Harding and served as a teacher as a part of his interview. He was offered a job and he accepted. He and his wife moved to Searcy where they had two sons.
In 2004, Klein was offered the position of chariman for the Department of History and Political Science.
“There was a big generational shift between the staff we had and the staff that we were going to need as faculty neared retirement,” Klein said. “You had my teachers, that had been here a long time, and then you had me—a sort of pivot or hinge with the job of making sure that when it came to mission, the staff had as much commitment to mission as the previous generation.”
In his 12 years as chairman, Klein was responsible for finding and hiring eight faculty members.
“I saw God’s providential care in that,” Klein said.
Of those eight members, Dr. Jared Dockery, was one of the professors who stepped up during Klein’s absence last semester, taking over Klein’s Western Civilization course.
Klein decided after he and his wife’s 25thanniversary that his time as department chair was over. He resigned from that position and Steven Breezeel was hired as the new chairman.
On Sept. 1, 2016, Klein was diagnosed with throat cancer and his wife took family leave to take care of him. He took 35 chemotherapy treatments in seven weeks.
“I beat a lot of odds going through it. That was my fight … And so I fought. I am now 10 weeks out and there is no visible tumor or palpable lymph nodes,” Klein said.
Klein has come out of this trial with a thankful and humble heart and continues to make the most of the time he is given to engage in the world and with the people around him.
“Going through these difficulties – these light and momentary difficulties – gives you a fuller sense of everything else. So it is weird to say this and to mean it, but I have been blessed by God in the ordeal itself. It is a debt I don’t have to pay back and because of that, I get to do whatever I can…There are some things that can only happen through pain, and it’s a mystery to me, but I know it’s true. Pain and setback and broken pride have time and time again been the only reason that I have been able to move forward,” Klein said.