Wayne Klasing ’64— retired president/CEO of Klasing Industries in Joliet, Illinois — has served on the Bradley Board of Trustees for nine years. One of his goals in retirement was to take his experience in business and use it to contribute to society. A loyal Lambda Chi Alpha, Klasing played a pivotal role in bringing his fraternity back to Bradley’s campus in 2007 after an almost 20-year hiatus. Bradley’s chapter now boasts 48 active members, and Klasing continues to be involved in its success by serving with the national fraternity.
Texan Trustee Loves ‘Everything Bradley’
A “tinkerer” from an early age, Wayne Klasing ’64 feels fortunate to have “played” with trains his entire life. With his industrial engineering degree in hand, he joined the family business, Klasing Industries, and was given his first assignment: design a new hand brake for railway freight trains. As the sole engineer at the Joliet, Illinois, company, he spent the next three years researching products already on the market and patent information.
“I was charged with developing an idea that was practical and had advantages over the competition,” he noted. “The basic design I developed was first sold in 1969. Improvements have been made and specifications have changed, but the design continues to be manufactured today. At this point, I probably know more about hand brakes than any other living person. As a result, I have served as a consultant and expert for many railroads.”
Nevertheless, the San Antonio native and proud member of the Sons of the Republic of Texas doesn’t consider himself a true entrepreneur. His great-uncle started Klasing Industries in 1913, and his father, Charles, took over the business after serving in the Navy during World War II. Charles then moved the family to Illinois, and by the time Klasing was in high school in New Lenox, he knew he would join the family business. “I wanted to study engineering at a smaller school with a strong engineering reputation, and that’s how I chose Bradley,” the University Board of Trustees member explained.
Klasing recalled only three faculty members taught industrial engineering then. “I enjoyed them all, but [the late] Frank Gryna [distinguished professor emeritus] was the best instructor I had at Bradley,” he added. “He influenced me a lot.”
Involved since the concept of convergence was first discussed with Dr. Richard Johnson, the former dean of the College of Engineering and Technology, Klasing is a vocal proponent for building a business and engineering convergence center and supports the University’s vision. “A new building is necessary to provide lab space for engineering, functional space for business, and a connection between the two colleges,” he explained. “I tell prospective students that the colleges of engineering and business provide excellent educations and practical experience that will give them an edge when seeking employment.”
Klasing noted that he was able to “hit the ground running” due to his Bradley education. He holds seven patents, bought and sold a second company, employed a diverse workforce, grew the family business, and ultimately sold Klasing Industries in 2008 to New York Air Brake Corporation, which now manufactures the product in Watertown, New York.
“I have always felt I was controlling my own destiny, and I believe in treating everyone as I would like to be treated,” Klasing said with a smile. “If I was successful, I could take the credit, but if I was not successful, I had no one but myself to blame. You could say I had one good idea and made a career out of it.”
Generous supporters of the University, Klasing and his wife, Barbara, a lifelong educator, recently made an estate commitment to Bradley. As 1897 Associates, a gift society established in 1992, they join other alumni and friends who are recognized for including Bradley in their wills, estate plans or life income arrangements. “We have been blessed to be able to provide for the needs of our family and also support the nonprofits with which we have been involved,” Klasing said. “After my years of involvement with Bradley, it is satisfying to know that we are able to continue our support after we are gone.”