Joel I. Klein became New York City schools chancellor in July 2002 after serving in the highest levels of government and business. As Chancellor, he oversees more than 1,500 schools with 1.1 million students, 136,000 employees, and a $21-billion operating budget.
He attended the city’s public schools and graduated from William Cullen Bryant High School in 1963. He then received his BA from Columbia University, from which he graduated magna cum laude/Phi Beta Kappa in 1967. Mr. Klein went on to earn his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1971, again graduating magna cum laude.
Mr. Klein was born in New York City on October 25, 1946. He is married to Nicole Seligman.
Before Mr. Klein became Chancellor, he was chairman and chief executive officer of Bertelsmann, Inc., and chief U.S. liaison officer to Bertelsmann AG from January 2001 to July 2002. Bertelsmann, one of the world’s largest media companies, has annual revenues exceeding $20 billion and employs more than 76,000 people in 54 countries.
From 1997 to 2001, Mr. Klein was assistant attorney general in charge of the U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust division. Serving one of the longest tenures ever as head of the 700-lawyer division, Klein led landmark cases against Microsoft, WorldCom/Sprint, Visa/Mastercard, and General Electric, prevailing in a large majority of cases. Mr. Klein was widely credited with transforming the antitrust division into one of the Clinton Administration’s greatest successes. He also served as Acting Assistant Attorney General and as the antitrust division’s principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General. His appointment to the U.S. Justice Department came after Klein served two years (1993-95) as deputy counsel to President William J. Clinton.
Mr. Klein entered the Clinton administration after 20 years of public and private legal work in Washington, D.C. He began his career as a law clerk, first to Chief Judge David Bazelon on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (1973-74), and then to Justice Lewis Powell on the United States Supreme Court (1974-75). He next worked at a public interest law firm, the Mental Health Law Project (1975-76). For the following five years, he was an associate and partner at the law firm of Rogovin, Stern & Huge (1976-81).
Mr. Klein joined two colleagues to start their own law firm, Onek, Klein & Farr, in 1981. His practice focused heavily on healthcare and constitutional litigation. He also specialized in appellate advocacy, winning 9 out of 11 cases in which he argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. This work covered a wide range of substantive areas including antitrust law, health law, civil rights, statutory interpretation, and constitutional law.
Active in community service work, Mr. Klein has participated in Big Brothers, served as chairman of the board of the Green Door, a pioneer community-based treatment program for mentally ill residents of the District of Columbia, and as treasurer of the World Federation for Mental Health. He was a member of a U.S. Department of State delegation in 1991 to examine issues of psychiatric abuse in the Soviet Union. He has also served on the board of several non-profit organizations, including the National Symphony Orchestra Association.
Mr. Klein has had a long-standing interest in educational issues. During a leave of absence from law school in 1969, he studied at New York University’s School of Education and later taught math to sixth-graders at a public school in Queens. Mr. Klein has served as a visiting and adjunct professor at the Georgetown University Law Center and has published several articles in both scholarly and popular journals.