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Post Your Klonoski Tribute

A comment iconAdd your own remembrance and learn about the reinstated dollar check-off (a Klonoski point of pride).

To mark the passing of Professor Jim Klonoski, College of Arts and Sciences alumni, including a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and a member of the British Parliament, submitted fond remembrances of this extraordinary man. Click here to read their tributes.

If you also have a story to share, use the comment form belowto post your remembrance of Professor Klonoski.

Read here about a former student’s gift that will eventually will fund a graduate student fellowship in Klonoski’s honor.

Read a recent Eugene Register-Guard story about the "dollar check-off,"one of Jim Klonoski's favorite legislative triumphs.


Jim Klonoski was by far the best and most influential of my college professors. His Supreme Court class has proven invaluable in my present position. While espousing the views he developed in the Iron Range of Minnesota, he made one see that each side of an issue generally has merit.

In 1964 Jim served comfortably as advisor to a Republican Model Convention I chaired at the University – imagine that. When I worked for Senator Jordan, Jim Klonoski would call me from time to time for research information, as he had little success in getting it from the Oregon delegation.

-- Jim Jones, Idaho Supreme Court Justice

I remember few of my college professors, but I will never forget Professor Klonoski. He wore his ideology on his sleeve, but never let it interfere with his thinking process. His Supreme Court class was invaluable, and helped prepare me for law school and for life as an attorney.

I took a small group seminar from Professor Klonoski my senior year at the University of Oregon. That class taught me both critical reading and critical thinking skills that last me to this day.

Major Shawn Gordon
Chief, Administrative Law Division
Fort Lewis, Washington

Jim Klonoski was a heck of a guy. I had him for two courses in 1991-92, and got to know him a bit because I coached an Edison Grade School basketball team that was in the same league as his son.

I remember two things:

One, he said the real goal of a facilitator was to ask one question at the outset of a session. It should be a question so good that people don't need any more prodding. That made me think about the impact of a thoughtful question.

Secondly, I got an "incomplete" because I wrote a final in one of those blue books (do they still use those?) in pencil. He wanted me to rewrite it in ink, but let me type it up instead. You would think I would have been upset by that, but he was such a formidable and sweet guy that I didn't even mind. Read the directions!

Brad Robertson, On Your Feet, Portland OR

Professor Klonoski influenced me far more than any other professor. I took the Supreme Court in America, the Presidency, Senate Simulation and a Practicum course from Jim. His use of the Socratic method was unsurpassed and helped prepare me for law school. Although my only political experience was campaigning for George McGovern in 1968, he encouraged me to apply for a summer internship with Senator Bob Packwood in 1973, which turned out to be a terrific experience.

Jim was a Democratic partisan, probably because of his egalitarian beliefs, but he also had an open and inquiring mind. More than most, he understood that politics is the art of compromise--capitalizing on the best ideas from each party. If only our recent and current Congresses could take a class from Professor Klonoski, we would have more honest and open debate, civility and maybe a little more intellectual discipline. He will be missed.

I also took Jim Klonoski's Supreme Court class. I remember it like it was yesterday--researching how Justice John Paul Stevens would likely rule in the Nancy Cruzan "right to die" case. Jim's ability to engage me and my classmates in deep, complicated, and usually passionate discussion of moral, social and legal issues was instrumental in my decision to become an attorney.

However, a comment on the top of my written decision probably had the biggest direct impact on my success going forward. It said: "Great reasoning, but your knowledge of grammar is rough. Take a class!" I did. That class has paid dividends ever since. I thank Jim for telling me what I needed to hear.

Jim Klonoski will be missed.

Cary B. Stephens
Barnshisel Willis Barlow & Stephens PC
Corvallis, Oregon

I had been a financial dropout from Willamette University four years before I returned to the UofO as a mother and nontrad student. Jim's Supreme Court class was one of the first I took and I loved it. It was so much intense work, required so much careful thought; it was a joy for someone thirsty for learning.

Though he only knew me for a term, Jim wrote me a great letter of recommendation for a Danforth Fellowship. I got the fellowship--one of about 120 in the country--and he joked that I would have to send in all my Ralston-Purina boxtops for life to get it. I went on to grad school at the UofO, took other classes from Jim, earned my PhD, and partly due to him had a wonderful 30 year career as a professor of political science. I feel proud to have passed on to new generations of students many of the valuable lessons he taught me. What a great man!

I was a senior political science major and enrolled in Jim's class on Constitutional Law that year. He was an excellent teacher and later a friend when i came back to Eugene to work for the university. I have many very good memories of the classroom experience but the one that proved later in life to be most valuable was learning that the U.S. Supreme Court was no less a "political player" than the Executive and Legislative Branch. He introduced to me the relatively new "behavioral" school of Poli Sci and the writings of Glendon Schubert. My high school civics learning fell by the wayside and from that time forth i have maintained a healthy skepticism about the workings of government.

I'll never forget Prof. Klonoski's unusual style of teaching Poli Sci 101. He would come to class with The NY Times paper and we would discuss the news of the day.

He was the one teacher who motivated me to care about current events.

Laura Finke (now Fuller)
Class of 1995, Political Science

Jim Klonoski was a great teacher. I took several of his classes and I particularly enjoyed his elections class in the run up to the 1992 elections. You couldn't help but love his enthusiasm and interest in us as students and people. He was really an inspiration...

Thanks, Jim!

Tristan Bodle, Sir Francis Drake High School, San Anselmo, California

I remember a funny story about Prof. Klonoski and his teaching assistants. Because he assigned too many books (8 books in US Presidency), his teaching assistants requested an additional payment for overtime :-)) Oh, he made us work so hard. I ended up using three blue books to write final essays.

Now a college professor in Political Science
Class of 1993

I spent the latter part of my college career with Jim. He was a wonderful person, a great teacher, and a good friend. Although I hadn't seen him in years, I have great memories. While we rarely agreed on politics, it was never personal, and always a pleasure. Traits like that are sorely missed in this political environment.

To me, the most memorable thing Jim ever said, and he did so at the end of every class, was; "Read Widely." I have often, with attribution to Jim Klonoski, given that advice. My sympathies go to Ann and their children. He was a great guy. A breed no longer around much in the landscape.

Professor Klonoski was my Pol Sci advisor,and I took every one of his courses in the late 1970's. He used to question why I wanted to become a lawyer, as if challenging me to commit that I intended to do good with my degree. My favorite course was the Supreme Court. He was an icon to me, whose intelligence and bias was always softened by the dryest and "coolest" of wit. I loved him as a teacher. I admired him as a man. He was one of the special ones. My best to his beautiful family.

I took several of Professor Klonoski's classes, and I remember him asking for answers to his questions, and demanding an in depth explanation with the answer. One really had to be on one's toes in his classes. He helped me learn to be articulate in any presentation I have given since.

Professor Klonoski was a compass in my life. Coming to the UofO from a small central Oregon High School was, at first, terribly intimidating. Attending some of Jim’s first classes made it clear to me that a degree with a PS background was the right course in my life. His carefully administrated direction, critique, and warm acknowledgment in the hallway was enough to keep me engaged to fulfill my BS at Oregon.

Although my professional career has not been directly attributable to my undergraduate degree, I have – daily – used the lessons Jim demonstrated, talked about in classes and re-affirmed in my papers – all making me the success I have found.

Those on the Oregon campus today will never appreciate this man as his students knew him. His peers on the faculty have big shoes to fill and certainly are up to the challenge.

SId Gregory
Class of '76
Once a Duck... Always a Duck

In 1972 I was privileged to work with Jim on the Lane County Democratic Executive Committee. I live in Springfield and was Chair of the McKenzieland Democrats, while still attending the University of Oregon.

Spending time with Jim gave me an opportunity to get to know him as a person and gave me an insight into his political philosophy. I was enriched as a result.

Professor Klonoski was my favorite professor in college. His Supreme Court class was a major reason I decided to attend law school. I remember during our presentation, I was Justice Scalia (a bit more of a conservative than I am by nature...Professor Klonoski knew that of course) I got a little off how Justice Scalia probably would have voted in the case. Suddenly Professor Klonoski's voice boomed from the back of the classroom: "Justice Scalia...this is the voice of God. Remember who you are."

I remember another time I was sitting in the third row from the front after a vigorous morning workout with the crew team, followed by a big breakfast, listening to his lecture. I nodded off. Professor Klonoski suddenly asked, "Mr. Johnson, what do you think?" I awoke with a start and said "Aaahh..." He then smirked slightly, flicked his hand up off the podium (as he often did when making a point), pointed his finger at me, and said, "Mr. Johnson, come down here to the front row. That way, I can kick you if you fall asleep again in my class." The class laughed. It never happened again. A great man. A wonderful teacher.

Jim Klonoski had only been at the University for three years when I took his Supreme Court class in 64-65. He used his Socratic method even back then, and it was absolutely the best class I ever took, and he was absolutely the best teacher I ever had.

He was intense, assured, and genuine. As a student you came to learn the life that shaped his character and his opinions—growing up in Minnesota and serving in Korea. There was never any doubt about where he stood on an issue but it never interfered with the teaching moment, the challenge to analytical, intelligent and cogent thought and discussion. His mission was to make us think, to go beyond the superficial and partisan. The man will be missed by all those he inspired. The political process in America today could be well served by such ethic and acumen.

Bill Spofford, 1966

I was a freshman Political Science major at UO in the fall of 1962, and Professor Klonoski was my academic advisor. I never had the privilege of taking one of his classes, but he was always willing to extend guidance to a confused freshman trying to work through the labryinth of required and elective courses needed to complete the way to graduation. I've often thought of Jim Klonoski in the 40 odd years since graduation, figuring he had retired long ago. Now I see he was still working almost until I retired. Thanks, Professor Klonoski, for guiding a new UO student on the right academic path to graduation. You made a big difference in my life.

George Bick
Class of 1967

I remember Professor Klonoski, who in 1968 had come to the UofO from Stanford. It was my senior year and I had just completed a summer course learning Russian, although my major was Political Science. Professor Klonoski was teaching a class on Eastern Europe at the time and I was introduced to him by Professor Beebe, my Russian teacher. Maybe that is why I remember him, his commitment and his enthusiasm in class.

I think that every political science class that I took from Jim Klonoski from 67 to 71 had at least 150 students in it, but his style of delivery and compassion for the subject made me feel as if he was talking to me. That is rare. I remember him emphasizing that the "status elite rules" and that the "silent majority" is the sleeping giant that can change the future if awakened.

Jim was politically left of center (in my view), but you would never know it in any class you took from him as he respected all points of view even from a well right of center person like me. He challenged me to step out of the box, "don't worry about the 'A', stretch for the knowledge and experience of the moment" he would say.

In my last class with Jim as professor in the Spring of 71, I chose as my final project to interview and film Robert Y. Thornton (former Oregon Attorney General), on his campaign trail to be a judge on the Oregon Court of Appeals. Jim knew that my political view point would be challenged by Thornton on the trip and that I favored his opponent from Medford who had a political war chest of 2 million USD plus against the better known Thornton who had less than a few hundred thousand in campaign funds.

My bet with Jim and the "point" of my movie shown to the class was "name familiarity will defeat a well funded campaign by an unknown opponent" (Blanchard). Thornton had told me he was behind in the polls and had little chance as the election neared, but after the last vote was tallied Thornton had won by nice margin.

After the quarter ended, I remember Jim saying to me, "good job...remember to keep an open mind" as you go through life.

Jim was more than a professor, he was a role model.

Great professor! He helped shape my life and professional pursuits and a very caring person. I am a former student in the class of 1966. He gave me specific guidance at a critical time in my life as to what may lie ahead in a number of potential career paths. His guidance was responsible for me making a career choice that was worth uncountable benefits for me and my family.

Best Regards,

Terry M. Ashwill

I remember my 1st term freshman class with Klonoski, right after midterms. He welcomed us back to class and offered his condolences to the eight grandmothers that had died just before the test.

I missed my share of classes at Oregon, but never one of his, and not because he took my best excuse away.

R. Scott Taylor, BA '69, JD '72

I was in mid-dissertation (on the politics of obscenity in Oregon) when Jim became my adviser; I was his first PhD advisee. It wasn't easy for either of us, as he wasn't as self-assured as he was soon to become. But he was more-than-appropriately demanding, and the new last chapter I constructed because of his constitutional law interests --on the Supreme Court's impact-- gave me a real "leg up" at the beginning of my career. The contact Jim generously gave me with one of his grad school friends led to my first major teaching job. He later regularly showed interest in my work, and I also appreciated that.

Steve Wasby, UO PhD 1962
(prof emeritus, University at Albany - SUNY)

If a student had a grain of intellectual curiosity, Professor Klonoski turned it into a mountain. He simply sought to challenge you to think critically, regardless of your personal political views. You could not passively take a Klonoski class. He would call on students randomly in the socratic style, "Mr. Bentley, what do you think about the court's opinion that a priest cannot lead a prayer at a public school graduation?" Regardless of the answer I gave in class, I would spend the rest of the day thinking about the question he asked. It could be intimidating, but for me, it was inspiring and motivating. It was how college should be.

I knew him mostly as a student who shared his passion for politics. But you could not be around Professor Klonoski without also learning of his love for baseball (the Twins) and his family, particularly his boys. He was also incredibly humorous, and made me laugh more than any other professor.

I took all of his classes. He wrote a letter of recommendation for me to law school that I still cherish. I'm sure he wrote a thousand of those letters, but he personalized mine in a way no other professor could. And I still have a copy of the Emerald article in which we're both quoted in a story about the upcoming election.

Later, as a law student at UO, I would run into him at the law school library. He was doing research for his Supreme Court class, reading the Court's recent opinions. He would always greet me with a smile, we would chat, and then, inevitably, he would ask, "Mr. Bentley, what do you think about this court's decision on campaign finance?"

I regret not maintaining my relationship with him more in recent years, but I thought of him often. I always will.

Phil Bentley
Legislative Director
Senate President's Office

Aside from his intelligence and dry wit, the funniest moment I remember of Jim Klonoski was when he was reading a Supreme Court Justice's quote in 1965, in his dramatic style, "Pornography---You know it when you see it!" At that very instant, someone leaning against the wall in the filled lecture hall accidently hit the light switch, leaving Klonoski and the entire room in the dark! When the lights came back on, Klonoski, nonplussed,grinned his sheepish grin, and raised his famous, pointed finger, exclaiming, "Very good!" Thanks, Jim Klonoski.

Jim was one of my most difficult teachers at UO ... but also the best! He pushed and challenged me to be my best. You could not hide from his picking you in class to answer a question. Once he knew I was a Journalism/Poli-Sci major... he often searched me out when he had a difficult question to ask in our Civil Rights and Civil Liberties class! Eeek! :0) My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends. He will be missed by many.

Rob Gerowe

Regional Director Northwest Office
Special Olympics Connecticut, Inc.

I started as an undergrad. at the U of O in 1991 with a major in Biology. After taking Klonoski's course, U.S. Politics, I was a quick convert to the Political Science Dept. -- moving from life sciences to social sciences in one fell swoop! I've never regretted my decision to change majors and no doubt owe Klonoski for the opportunity I had to work for both Peter DeFazio and former AG Hardy Myers! Here's to Klonoski who never ceased to inspire, motivate and entertain his students!

Recently, I was asked a question I have been asked in the past: "Did you use your [Political Science] degree"? Perhaps you have been asked this question as well! Coincidentally, or perhaps not, I was asked this question the day after I/we received this email and, in turn, telling my wife about my experiences in Professor Klonoski's classes, and what I learned from them.

Like Mr. Gordon, I recall a few of my professors, but I have never forgotten Professor Klonoski and his classes, particularly his Supreme Court in America class. I also was intimidated and inspired by Professor Klonoski's use of the Socratic method of teaching. At the same time, I appreciated the civility of his treatment of everyone as the mature adults we weren't at the time, by calling on me/us as Mr./Ms._____ His classes resulted in skills I did not know I was acquiring at the time, such as thinking critically. It struck me that others comments about Professor Klonoski have included "due to him," "influential," "impact,"
"instrumental," "major reason," "motivated me," "right course in my life," and "shape my life." Like you, I may not have used my Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science and gone on to work for a Congressman, committee of the House, law school and, for the past 20 years, lobbying the California Legislature if it had not been for the impact Professor Klonoski and his classes had on me.

Mark A. Theisen
Class of 72

It is great to know that so many others share the deep respect and gratitude that I have for Jim Klonoski's influence on my education and career. I think I may have taken all of his classes, and even had the pleasure of working closely with him as one of the student leaders in the Senate simulation. What a great teacher and motivator!

A quick memory: In his Presidency class, while Nixon was President, he was talking about the balance of powers. He and I got into a long discussion about my suggestion that there was unchecked "power" in the presidency that could be abused. I did not carry the day. A few years later, after Watergate, he came to the law school to talk about the presidency and that issue. While speaking, he spotted me in the crowded hall, and raised that finger my way. I thought a question was coming. Nope. With a grace I will never forget (and can only hope to emulate), Jim recalled our discussion, smiled at me, and conceded the point. What a memory!

He never stopped, and is still teaching me today.

Jim Klonoski 'taught' me through Watergate and Nixon's resignation, and was a decided influence on my decision--taken, as I recall, immediately after one of his lectures--to go to law school.... That was a long time ago, but my fond memories and respect are strong and abiding. We were lucky!

Jonathan Aleck BA, MA (UofO), JD (Loyola), PhD (ANU)

I took just one class from Jim Klonoski, the U.S. Constitution at 200 Years, in my final full semester at the U of O. Somewhat lost as to what next, I visited him in his office. Klonoski connected me to an internship in then-Congressman Weaver's office. Two-dozen years later, I still live in Washington, DC (working for environmental health non-profits). Call it a turning point. I also remember a man truly interested in what he did, his students, and the subjects he taught.

Paul Orum (Political Science/German, 1985)

Jim was kind enough to take me on as a Ph.D. student when my regular advisor was on sabbatical and out of the country. It was a perfect pairing because of my subject matter - the Non-Partisan League's state-owned Bank of North Dakota, its economic impact on the state, and its ability to stay relevant in both Republican and Democrat-NPL administrations. What a treat to find someone else with midwestern roots who shared the fascination of this political time in our nation's history.

I turned in the first draft of my dissertation. And continued to turn in many other drafts as Professor Klonoski always asked whether I could improve the draft I'd handed in and I always thought I could. Finally I had reached the end of my rope and when he asked whether I could turn in a better draft I simply said no, I had done the best I could. And he smiled and said, good. Until that point I had thought the redrafts were about him, and hadn't realized that he was pushing me to do my best work. What a lesson - in the best possible sense of the word.

I wrote Jim after the article about him appeared last summer. Just to thank him and catch up. He sent a 2-page letter back giving me updates about his kids and mentioning how much he enjoyed teaching at Oregon. Perhaps another lesson to do what we love!

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