ISU professor led life of adventure

Katie Anderson

An ISU professor has passed away after a life filled with adventure and achievement.

Elmer D. Klemke, 74, professor emeritus of philosophy and religious studies, passed away Friday morning in the emergency room of Mary Greeley Medical Center, 1111 Duff Ave., said Terry Adams, owner of Adams Funeral Home, 502 Douglas Ave.

Klemke retired from Iowa State in 1997 and received the honorary title of professor emeritus, but he continued teaching one class a semester for another two years.

Michael Bishop, associate professor and chairman of philosophy and religious studies, said Klemke lived a good life.

“We were colleagues for a number of years,” Bishop said. “He led a very important, interesting life.”

Bishop said Klemke was once offered a job by John F. Kennedy, which he turned down. He said Klemke had also mingled with such public figures as comedian Bob Hope and former Vice President Hubert Humphrey, in addition to hanging out with the Marx Brothers.

“He was a mountain climber and was once attacked by a bull moose while mountain climbing,” Bishop said. “When he was younger he was a fishing guide in northern Minnesota, and I believe in the ’80s he gave financial support to a rock band that cut some records.”

While Klemke led an interesting life outside the classroom, he was also renowned for his work in the academic world.

Some of his achievements included the James Huntington Ellis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, the Burlington Northern Award for Career Achievement in Teaching and was in Who’s Who of America and Outstanding Educators of America. In addition, Klemke was the author or editor of 23 books.

Bishop said Klemke was a philanthropist.

“Something not everyone knows is that he gave all his royalties from his books to charity and did a lot of charity work also,” Bishop said.

While at Iowa State, Klemke’s main area of concentration for teaching was introduction to philosophy, 20th century philosophy and history of modern philosophy, Bishop said.

Enda Wiser, retired secretary of philosophy and religious studies, said she is helping plan the memorial concert to be held in honor of Klemke.

“Elmer specified in his will that he wanted a memorial music concert with a harpsichord and specified music,” she said.

Wiser said the tentative date is Nov. 19 in the Memorial Union. She said she assumes the concert would be open to the public.

“Even though Klemke hasn’t had much contact with students over the past several years, there might be some seniors who would remember him and attend the concert,” Wiser said.

Bishop said Klemke had an important role in the ISU community.

“He really was an excellent man,” he said.