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Penn People

Laura Ruth Murray Klein 1910 - 1998

Penn Connection

  • B.S. in Education 1931, A.M. in English 1933, Ph.D. in English 1943
  • President of Delta Chapter and Women's Association of Phi Beta Kappa
  • National president of Association of Alumnae
  • Honorary president of Class of 1931
  • First woman to receive Alumni Award of Merit 1949

Laura Ruth “Patsy” Murray Klein was born in Philadelphia on February 14, 1910, the daughter of Robert Murray and Laura Mosebach Murray. She attended Frankford High School prior to entering the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Education in 1927.

Klein participated in many student organizations as an undergraduate, including Glee, Radio Plays, Dance, and Drama, and was the only first-year woman on the varsity debate team, eventually serving as team captain and manager. She was also a member of the Chi Omega sorority. While the School of Education was the only undergraduate school at Penn offering full-time study for women, Klein took full advantage of the opportunity to enroll in courses offered by other schools at the University. Elected to the honorary society Pi Lambda Theta for Education, she was also inducted into Pi Gamma Mu for Social Studies and Economics as a result of her varied coursework.

Graduating in 1931, Klein would later be honored as a charter alumna member of Phi Beta Kappa in 1934, when the national honorary society’s Penn chapter established a women’s section. Klein was the recipient of a University Scholarship in English to the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, from which she received her master’s degree in English in 1933. She completed her Ph.D. in English ten years later, when it was still rare for women to enter Penn’s Ph.D. program.

Laura Ruth “Patsy” Murray was married to Randolph S. Klein, a graduate of the Wharton School Class of 1929 and a Philadelphia attorney, in 1934. Their son, Randolph, Jr., C’ 63, was born in 1942 while Klein was earning her Ph.D., and their daughter, Linda, was born in 1945. Randolph, Sr., passed away in 1954 at the age of 47.

Klein began her career at Dr. Lightner Witmer’s school in Devon, PA. She continued on to teach English at Olney High School, Germantown High School, and South Philadelphia High School for Boys before transitioning to an administrative career as vice principal of John Bartram High School and later principal at Tilden Junior High School. The highlight of Klein’s career was her tenure as principal of the Philadelphia High School for Girls from 1963 to 1976, which she described as “particularly challenging.” Her years at Girls’ High spanned the turbulent times of the sixties through to the Philadelphia bicentennial of 1976. In describing the school for a 1983 interview Klein noted, “This is a school that has a responsibility to experiment and to change…in fact, one of Girls’ High’s traditions is changing with the times.”

The post of principal of Girls’ High was considered by many at the time to be the pinnacle of high school principalships open to women. Klein believed that girls are equally as intellectually curious as boys, and during her time at the school she introduced the Additional Instructional Hour program which allowed each student to take an extra elective chosen from a wide variety of subjects. She also implemented the Study-Action in Philadelphia program, encouraging seniors to participate in internships throughout the city as part of their learning experience.

Klein was a dedicated alumna of the University of Pennsylvania throughout her life. She served as national president of the Association of Alumnae and vice president of the General Alumni Association, in addition to president of the Philadelphia branch of the American Association of University Women. Further, Klein served as honorary president of the Class of 1931 for many years and also maintained her commitment to Phi Beta Kappa as president of the Delta Chapter and the Women’s Association. In 1949, in recognition of her distinguished service to the University of Pennsylvania, Klein was the first woman to receive the University’s Alumni Award of Merit.

After retiring from Girls’ High, Klein became president and chair of the board of the Please Touch Museum, at the time the only museum in the nation designed especially for young children. She was involved with the Museum from its founding and was a committed advocate for its growth as a member of its capital campaign committee. In 1983 Klein was honored as a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania for her outstanding service to the community.