The class of 1959 alumnus went on to have a storied, 30-plus-year career at Alma College
William G. “Bill” Klenk, an Alma College student who went on to become a teacher, athletic director and coach before being twice inducted to the Alma College Hall of Fame, died Aug. 1, 2020.
Klenk, the namesake of the Scots’ baseball field Klenk Park, is remembered as a teacher and mentor for hundreds of students over the course of his 30-plus-year career at Alma. He was also a dedicated alumnus who remained involved in college activities well past his retirement.
“Bill Klenk was Alma College’s biggest supporter throughout his life and a great guide and friend to me personally,” Alma College President Jeff Abernathy said.
“We will remember and revere him for his commitment to seeing Alma College grow, assisting in any way possible and whenever called upon to serve.”
Klenk, who graduated from Alma College with the class of 1959, was a member of Phi Phi Alpha, and later Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE), as well as the Scots football, baseball and basketball teams. While a student at Alma, he earned a total of seven varsity letters in baseball, basketball and football. He was also named All-MIAA, All-NAIA, Honorable Mention All-American and Most Valuable Player for football.
On the baseball diamond, it was said that opposing pitchers would “walk Klenk to get to Northrup” — referring to future Detroit Tigers outfielder and fellow Alma player Jim Northrup ’62 — a testament to Klenk’s skills as a hitter.
In 1975, Klenk was named to the Alma College Athletic Hall of Fame for his achievements on the field of play. In 2015, he was inducted to the hall of fame as a coach. He is the only person to hold both distinctions at Alma College.
Following his graduation from Alma, Klenk obtained a master’s degree from Southern Illinois University and taught at Haslett High School. But he didn’t stay away from Alma for long. Klenk returned to his alma mater and coached in various capacities for 32 years.
During his tenure as head of the baseball program, Klenk had an overall record of 283-288-2 and led the Scots to MIAA championships in 1973-74, 1978, 1980-81, 1983 and 1987.
Klenk also led the men’s and women’s basketball programs. He ran the men’s basketball program from 1967-78, ending with a 122-94 overall record and an MIAA championship in the 1977 season. He led the women’s basketball program from 1985-87, where he had a record of 44-8 and led the Scots to two MIAA championships. He also taught physical education and served as athletic director during his time at Alma.
“I have never met someone with so much passion for Alma College,” said Sarah Dehring, athletic director. “I will never forget when I arrived to campus in the summer of 2011, as the volleyball coach, I received an email within my first few weeks from a Bill Klenk, with a list of potential recruits and all of their accolades.
Bill always wanted what was best for Alma College and he gave his life to the institution. I cannot think of a more true Scot. He will be missed dearly, but his legacy will live on through all of the individuals that he coached, mentored and befriended.”
Klenk remained involved with the college long after retirement. He was a charter member of the TKE Chapter Alumni Association and was one of the three founders of the Baseball Endowment Fund program. He hosted the annual Klenk Open golf outing and in 2017, received the Campus Involvement Ambassador of the Year Award for his ongoing support for Alma College athletics and student engagement. In 2018, he was grand marshal in the college’s homecoming parade.
Klenk, who lived in The Villages, Florida, at the time of his death, was preceded in death by his first wife, Elaine, who died in 2012. He is survived by his three children, Kari ’89, Steve ’91 and Kristi, and current wife Ginny Poe.
Klenk’s full obituary can be viewed online at hiers-baxley.com.