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Before Ralph Klein rose through the political ranks to become one of Canada’s most colourful — and arguably most successful — politicians, he was a young reporter, just trying to make his mark in a busy newsroom.

“Those days, we were advised to smoke Buckingham cigarettes and sing in the shower to improve our resonance,” says Klein, who worked in radio and television. “There were no schools when I entered broadcasting — it really was just the school of hard knocks.”

But times have changed and Klein believes education is critical for young journalists and communicators today. That’s why he was eager to share his experiences with students in Mount Royal’s Faculty of Communication Studies over the past year.

“When the Ralph Klein Chair in Media Studies was established last October by a group of his friends and supporters, we felt that it would be entirely appropriate to ask Ralph to be the first to occupy the chair,” says Marc Chikinda, dean of the faculty.

Ralph Klein with Communications students

Face to face with students

In the endowed chair position, Klein has spent many hours with students across the faculty’s various disciplines, giving special lectures and participating in tutorials.

“Normally, I speak about my time in the media and politics, which are more alike than people think. Politics is 99.9% communication after all,” says Klein, adding he thinks he learned as much as he taught.

“One of the things I learned about was Facebook,” he laughs. “I’ve really enjoyed my time at Mount Royal, and I would like to do more lecturing and teaching in the future.”

Chikinda says, besides working with students, Klein has also helped promote the faculty in various ways, from hosting an alumni event in Toronto to writing letters in support of faculty for research grant proposals.

“The students loved having him here,” says Chikinda. “They have been exposed to a man who gave them special insight into the political events of the last 20 years in this province, and having that kind of knowledge base resident with us in the faculty was certainly a big boon to us all.”

Klein retires from the position in December, and Chikinda says they are currently discussing who might be the next occupant.

“We are looking forward to bringing in the very best minds in the communications field over the next 20 to 25 years.”

— Teresa Wong
Nov. 17, 2008