Asked to reflect on the life and career of her husband, Pat Klingenstein smiles warmly. “John has always been his own man, speaking his mind, and following his own path wherever it has led. And, I’m proud to say, that path has led to a career of real significance.” In talking about John Klingenstein, now 86, Pat gets to the heart of a man whose influence on medical science has been undeniable.

Inspired by his grandfather Frederick Adler, an 1891 graduate of Yale College, and an uncle, Milton Steinbach, of the Class of 1924, Klingenstein graduated from Yale College in 1950 as an engineering major. A first-rate student, John was elected to the engineering honors society Tau Beta Pi as a junior. He pursued a career in engineering for several years, including a stint at Westinghouse, where he was a member of a team working on the first jet propulsion engines. Then, at the urging of his father, Joseph Klingenstein, a co-founder of the storied New York investment firm Wertheim & Co., he headed to Wall Street, joining the firm in 1959. As a partner for many years, he worked alongside his brother Frederick, Yale College ’53, who later succeeded Joseph as CEO.

The Klingenstein family’s influence extends beyond the world of finance. For more than three decades, the School of Medicine has been a beneficiary of the family’s support of medical science. In the early 1970s, John was named president of the Esther A. and Joseph Klingenstein Fund, the family’s primary philanthropy. John brought to the Fund a business discipline, the precise thinking of an engineer, and a keen interest in medical science and independent education, Pat says. In 1981, he helped establish what’s now called the Klingenstein-Simons Fellowship Awards in the Neurosciences, which have supported numerous young investigators engaged in neuroscience research.

Now, in a tribute to John Klingenstein and in recognition of Yale’s strengths in neuroscience, the Klingenstein family—including Pat, sons Tom and Andy, and daughters Nancy and Sally—has endowed the new John Klingenstein Professorship in Neuroscience through a gift from the Fund. Its inaugural holder is Pietro De Camilli, M.D.

The family’s motivations were twofold: “We made the gift out of love for my dad and love for Yale,” says Andy Klingenstein, Yale College ’80 and now the Fund’s president.

One could say that Yale runs in the Kingenstein family’s blood: in addition to John’s grandfather, uncle, brother, and son, his granddaughter Tory Klingenstein graduated from Yale College in 2010.

The family’s support of Yale science has enabled advances in basic and clinical research. The family also provided pivotal funding for the Department of Microbial Pathogenesis under the direction of Jorge E. Galan, Ph.D., DVM, chair and the Lucille P. Markey Professor of Microbial Pathogenesis and professor of cell biology. Gifts from a related family philanthropy have supported research on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and depression.

Says Robert J. Alpern, M.D., dean and Ensign Professor of Medicine, “The Klingenstein family’s support over the years has made a tangible impact on the medical school. I am especially gratified that the present gift honors John Klingenstein, who has led the philanthropy of a family that has been a stalwart supporter of Yale science for so many years.”

The selection of De Camilli as the inaugural Klingenstein Professor, Andy says, was a natural one: “Pietro is an incredible scientist and an even better person.”

De Camilli is director of the Yale Program in Cellular Neuroscience, Neurodegeneration and Repair; professor of cell biology and neurobiology; and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. A prior recipient of the Klingenstein Fellowship Award, he researches the cell biology of neuronal synapses. His work explores the fundamental aspects of the function of cells of the nervous system, with an emphasis on synaptic transmission, the process through which neurons exchange signals with each other. His studies have provided new insights into the molecular events underlying the release of neurotransmitters from nerve cells. More generally, they have advanced knowledge of the mechanisms through which all cells secrete substances, take up material from the external environment, and traffic it to appropriate intracellular destinations.

Prior to being named to the Klingenstein professorship, De Camilli was the Eugene Higgins Professor of Cell Biology and Neurobiology.