The Kleinmann Five

Laurel D. Austin

Like many Johnson County residents, Cal and Lesa Kleinmann aren’t from here. He grew up in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and she is from a small farming town in the north central part of the Sooner State. They met at Oklahoma State University and as Cal likes to say, “It was the last blind date we went on.”

The couple married 36 years ago and moved to Overland Park, raised three children—Derek, Matt, and Whitney—immersed themselves in school activities to support their kids, changed their college colors to Jayhawk blue and red, and became woven into the fabric of the community.

If Johnson County held pep rallies to inspire the community like Chiefs Red Friday unites fans, it’s a sure bet that Cal and Lesa would be calling the cheers. Their allegiance to education, philanthropy, and participating in the leadership of one of the most desirable areas to live in the United States represents a fierce brand of community spirit. Luckily for the cities that comprise Johnson County, that potent combination of unity and mutually positive goals that the Kleinmanns work toward is a common commodity.

And like many Johnson County parents who are empty nesters after spending the better part of 12 years shuttling kids to practice, attending school functions, sitting in the bleachers at sporting events, and then watching those high school graduates flourish in the collegiate environment, Cal and Lesa still suit up and show up to help the community succeed.

“We’ve always felt it’s important to give back to our community, through volunteering for our kids’ activities and, as they grew older, within the community as a whole,” says Lesa.

That’s just the way the Kleinmanns roll.

For 27 years, Cal was a well-known commercial and private banker in Johnson County. Now a financial advisor, he regards colleagues and clients he’s met throughout the decades as friends, thanks to his relationship-building skills. A quality of Johnson County that has served it well, according to Cal, is one he tries to emulate in his life and career: solution-based problem solving.

“You hear this a lot living in Johnson County and Kansas City,” says Cal. “This is the biggest small town where everybody knows everybody. No one is more than a phone call away if I need them for a board or a project.”

Cal says to its credit, the community meets challenges head-on and fixes what doesn’t work—akin to a parent counseling a child about the future or a teacher tutoring a student to improve their GPA. Johnson County isn’t static—in government, education, or helping those in need, whether they live within county lines or halfway across the world, he says.

“Like so many parents, becoming involved in community-based efforts sets a good example for our kids,” says Cal, who championed the concept of a charitable foundation that a superintendent of the Blue Valley School District (BVSD), Jim Thompson, addressed one day in a meeting in the late 1980s. Cal became the first president of the Blue Valley Educational Foundation, and has served four terms during the past 20 years. “Education and funding education is a passion,” he says.

Indeed, it’s easy to trace Cal and Lesa’s commitment to education in Johnson County by the organizations they’ve served. The couple was asked to join a programming committee in the mid-1990s for the fledgling Carlson Center on the campus of Johnson County Community College (JCCC). They performed those duties for several years, helping to launch one of the area’s entertainment and cultural jewels, and last year were asked to co-chair the JCCC Foundation’s Some Enchanted Evening, the college’s annual fundraising gala that helps deserving students finance their education through scholarships. Over the course of 25 years, that event has raised more than $5 million for students attending the second largest institution of higher learning in the state of Kansas.

“JCCC is a place where students get an education, and people go for training, retraining, and job transition,” says Cal. “The college has a level of excellence in every program, including passionate professors who teach and do research.”

Cal and Lesa took an accounting class at JCCC years ago and were impressed by the faculty’s dedication to everyone—whether a traditional student, an employee of a company or a retired individual. “The mission of JCCC is to help you succeed regardless of your stage of learning,” says Cal.

Lesa, who recently retired from IBM and is looking for her next career challenge, echoes her husband’s sentiments about the top-notch education in Johnson County—something they witnessed firsthand with each of their children who attended BVSD schools. “We have been truly blessed to live where schools are excellent, which helped mold our kids to become the wonderful adults they are today,” she says. “There were incredible teachers, school administrators, and coaches who were such positive influences in our children’s lives.”

Cal and Lesa have helped their three children understand that Johnson County’s bounty and resources are a microcosm. “We have encouraged them throughout their lives to broaden horizons by trying new things, to be successful and to try their best,” he says. “We’re fortunate to have such a great sense of family—and that they gravitate to that core.”

If there was a Team Kleinmann, it’s easy to imagine their jerseys emblazoned with The Spirit of Community. Their pride in family, education, opportunities, and Johnson County exemplifies the energy of a vibrant community.

 

There's No Place Like Home

The Kleinmann kids are true products of their environment—well educated and traveled, curious and enthusiastic about their futures, philanthropic. Cal and Lesa are straightforward about their involvement in their children’s lives growing up. “Whatever our kids were doing, we were there—sporting events, cheer competitions, whatever,” he says, adding that he and Lesa didn’t have time for hobbies. “It was all about the family.”

Lesa acknowledges that the spirit of community in Johnson County is a priceless asset when raising a family. “As Hilary Clinton wrote, “it takes a village,” says Lesa. “For over 25 years, we have| experienced that.”

Derek, the oldest, attended Blue Valley Northwest, played baseball for Rockhurst University, graduated from the University of Kansas, received a law degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and resides in Cleveland with wife Sarah and their son, Drew. Derek is an attorney for the Justice Department.

Matt attended Blue Valley West, was a popular KU basketball player and a member of the 2008 championship team. He is only one of two KU players with five championship rings plus one national championship ring. He continued his higher education at Washington University in St. Louis and earned two master’s degrees in urban design and architecture, and traveled in Argentina and China for eight months. Matt resides in Westport and works at Helix Architecture + Design in Kansas City where he is contributing to the design of new headquarters for Sporting KC.

The Kleinmanns’ youngest child, Whitney, attended Blue Valley West where she was a national merit finalist and was involved in competitive cheer. A junior at KU studying Spanish with pre med, she received an award last year from the chemistry department after earning a perfect score in organic chemistry. She spent two months interning in a hospital in Madrid this past summer.

Calvin Kleinmann is a Financial Advisor with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney. The views expressed herein are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect the views of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC, Member SIPC, or its affiliates.

Categories: People, People & Places

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