Donald Albert Klein, a longtime professor of microbiology at Colorado State University and leading researcher in the field, died at age 80 on February 23.
Donald was born on September 11, 1935, to Albert and Ellen (ne Christiansen) Klein and raised in Stratford, Conn. During his youth he was active in the Boy Scouts, culminating in Eagle Scout. He was a sailing aficionado, often crossing Long Island Sound in his wooden-hulled lightning-class boat. Donald married Sandra Phippen of Wenham, Mass., in 1956. He has four children – Greta, Leighton, Leslie, and Spencer – as well as five grandchildren, Adam, David, Sadie, Willow, and a grandson on the way.
A believer in life-long learning, Donald obtained his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in 1957 and 1961 from the University of Vermont, studied for his doctorate at the University of Tubingen in Germany, and obtained his Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University in 1966. He joined CSU in 1970 as a tenured full professor. Additional academic work was performed at the University of Kiel in Germany, the University of Copenhagen, the University of Essex in the United Kingdom, the Technical University of Budapest, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, among others.
After beginning his studies in dairy microbiology, Donald’s research turned to the role of microbes in the soil. He published articles in dozens of leading academic journals and his work was in turn cited by hundreds of other researchers. For example, “Simulation Model for the Effects of Climate Change on Temperate Grassland Ecosystems,” published in Ecological Modelling in 1991, was cited by more than 40 other research papers. Donald was due to retire at the end of the 2016 academic year after 46 years of service to Colorado State University. The university made him an emeritus professor posthumously to honor his contributions to the university and to the field of microbiology.
As the son of a machinist, Donald had a great fondness for mechanical work. His hobbies included restoring classic British cars, working on his houses in Fort Collins and North Falmouth, Mass., and sailing a vintage Beetle Cat boat. He led the effort to restore the historic Coy-Hoffman barn, the oldest in northern Colorado and now on the National Register of Historic Places. He made the first donation to save the barn and co-led the fundraising effort.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be given in Donald’s name to the Fort Collins Historic Society, Coy/Hoffman Barn Project.