Teacher Feature: Dr. Martin Kleiber

Kerry Ann Lester

Dr. Martin Kleiber and his graduate students have a close relationship: they drive him to school, eat lunch together and write the lessons he dictates onto the blackboard. These special individuals act as his eyes. Literally. Professor Kleiber is blind.

“We have a good time together,” he said. Kleiber calls these students “real heroes.” As a child, before coming to America from Hungary, Kleiber lost his ability to see.

Learning to speak English, graduating from college here at Villanova have all been done without functioning eyes.

“They write on the board and do all the work,” Kleiber said. “All I have to do is talk.” And these days, it is with the use of a microphone. As a result of chest surgery last summer, Kleiber also lost most of his voice.

Yet in the classroom his disability disappears. “This is a beautiful place here,” Kleiber says. “I feel very welcome. I love coming here in the morning. My job, from 8:30 a.m to 5 p.m. is enjoyable, not like punching a clock. Teaching is a good profession.”

He still has the same enthusiasm for Villanova that he did when he started. In 1967, Kleiber was hired as professor of mathematics at Villanova. This year marks his 35th year teaching at the University. He has taught almost every kind of math class imaginable at Villanova. Nowadays, however, he sticks mostly to calculus. At the age of 68, and after 35 years at this University, Dr. Kleiber wants to slow down a little bit and is considering retirement in a few years.

Kleiber immigrated to the United States in 1949. His family set about making a home in Wisconsin, by other relatives who had come to the country a few years before.

Already speaking Hungarian and German, Kleiber set about learning his third language: English. He graduated from high school, and went on to Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis.

Dr. Kleiber lives at home with his wife and youngest son. He is the father of four children and the grandfather of four more. In his free time, he enjoys chair caning-an intricate furniture making process, which, he says, “we were taught as kids to keep us out of trouble.”

Kleiber feels that some of his students may have a hard time approaching him because they might be afraid to hurt his feelings. He also notes that “can’t see their faces, whether they are frowning or smiling.”

You may have seen seen him going to class some mornings with a guide and other days without. The days he walks with someone, it is only for social reasons.

Although he is is completely capable of getting there by himself, he enjoys walking with others and he always appreciates the help.

Crossing busy roads is slightly unnerving for him. “It is a totally scary thing for anyone, with or without seeing,” he said. “Fear cannot be made greater. How can you be more scared than totally scared?”

Incredibly humble about the courage he employs every day of his life, Kleiber mentions many other Villanova faculty members with various disabilities.

He insists that there are many others in the same boat. “Losses are a part of life,” he said. “Soon you’ll lose everything you’ve got.” With a teasing smile, he added, “As long as I can come here [to Villanova], as long as I’m alive, I must continue to do some damage.”President Franklin Roosevelt, who also conquered disability to reach for greatness stated, “Men are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own minds.” Kleiber did not let his fate limit his achievements. He serves as an inspiration for all Villanovans.