Alum Establishes Institute for Engineers

Ken Klein provides the support to create an anchor for students seeking guidance and counseling in their early years at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.
By Diane Ainsworth
USC Viterbi School of Engineering Dean Yannis Yortsos, alumnus Ken Klein and President Steven B. Sample attend the school's gala.

Photo/Steve Cohn
Software industry veteran and USC Viterbi School of Engineering alumnus Ken Klein has provided an $8 million gift to establish a new institute for undergraduate engineering student life.

The new Klein Institute for Undergraduate Engineering Life (KIUEL) will bring young students into the fold of the engineering community with an array of academic, social and career services.

“This institute will create a wonderfully new environment for our undergraduates, one that will contribute to their life outside of the classroom, by giving them the support, mentoring, social networking and counseling they really need to succeed,” said USC Viterbi School Dean Yannis Yortsos in announcing the gift.

“We are deeply grateful to Ken for his support,” he said. “Ken is not only a great Trojan who cares about his school, but he is a wonderful role model for young engineering students.”

Klein, who earned a bachelor of science dual degree in biomedical and electrical engineering in 1982, said the institute will serve as an anchor for engineering students who need more guidance and counseling in their early years of undergraduate work than they do in later years.

“I wish that I had had an institute like this to turn to when I was an undergraduate,” he said, “because I know how tough the engineering curriculum can be and what a little help can do.”

The new institute is the first of its kind in the nation for an engineering school and will become a nerve center for all activities related to undergraduate engineering student life, Klein said.

The center will include student government, engineering club activities, competitions, social, leadership and career-oriented programs and an array of new programs and services yet to be designed.

“The timing could not be better,” Yortsos said. “With our new Ronald Tutor Hall, we have created a vibrant, bustling hub for student life. Now, during our centennial celebration, we begin phase two, to design an institute that will provide students with all of the support services, social and cultural outlets, and career counseling they need to make their years at USC meaningful, productive and successful.”

The institute will be on the second floor of Tutor Hall, adjacent to the Baum Family Student Lounge, which was designed for students to study, socialize and relax.

Other student offices on the second floor currently include a career services program and interview rooms; collaboration rooms for group study; the Center for Engineering Diversity; the Women in Engineering program office; an academic, writing and tutoring resources center; student organization offices; and a multipurpose presentation room. Several of these functions will expand under the umbrella of the new institute.

“The institute will make a profound statement about the value we place on undergraduate education and the importance of supporting these talented young students as they pursue rigorous academic paths,” Yortsos said. “It will help tremendously in their recruitment and retention. It’s not only important to us that they succeed, it’s important to society that they succeed.”

Klein is president, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Wind River, a global leader in device software optimization based in Alameda, Calif.

With 20 years of software industry experience, Klein has had a successful career building small software companies into major revenue earners.

He serves on the board of Tumbleweed Communications in Redwood City, Calif., and is a member of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering Board of Councilors.