Retirees Association

Helen Gail Altman Klein, 80, Professor of Psychology

Helen Klein

Long-time Wright State Professor Helen Gail Altman Klein passed away on May 16, 2023, at the age of 80 in Belmont, Mass. Helen was born Feb. 20, 1943, in Detroit, Mich., to Bessie (Avison) and Dan Altman.

After completing college at Michigan State University in 1964, Helen moved to the University of Pittsburgh to pursue a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology, and there she met her classmate Gary Klein, whom she married in 1966. Helen and Gary moved to Yellow Springs, Ohio, in 1977, where she raised two daughters, became an active member of her community, and dove into her research.

Helen taught psychology at Wright State for 37 years, conducting research into early childhood development, cross-cultural communication, parenting and temperament. Her research lab was an exciting place with ideas flying, and she loved guiding her undergraduate and graduate students. She was the first director of the Applied Behavioral Science master’s degree program at Wright State and led that program for many years. Helen worked with her friend Jeanne Ballantine to compare schooling in Japan, England and Israel to better understand how educational systems instill culture. They also spearheaded the project to establish a childcare center at Wright State. For several years, Helen wrote a widely admired column for the magazine Young Children.

She loved her sabbaticals in Israel, where she also researched the educational system’s strategies for helping new immigrants thrive in Israeli culture. She extended that work when she returned to Ohio and looked at ways the school system could better accommodate children of Appalachian families.

Helen also traveled to Sarajevo to examine ways NATO forces in Bosnia were able to collaborate across cultural divides. Her work on cross-cultural differences has continued to influence researchers looking at how to bridge divides; particularly how she applied her findings to change military culture to better cooperate with civilians in foreign countries. Later in her career she became interested in needs associated with aging. She researched barriers older adults faced to aging in place and strategies for addressing those barriers. She also studied communication around medical issues, including the ways people form mental models of diabetes in order to better manage the disease.

After Helen retired from Wright State in 2011 as a full professor of psychology, she and Gary moved to the East Coast, splitting time between Washington, D.C., and Boston to be near their daughters and their families.

Helen suffered from neurological decline, including a stroke in June of 2021. She was predeceased by her parents Bessie and Dan Altman and her sister Ruth Altman. Helen leaves behind her grieving family— her husband of 56 years Gary Klein; her daughter and son-in-law Devorah Klein and Jared Judson and their children, Anne, Thomas, Ruth, and Harold; and her daughter and son-in-law Rebecca and Matt Lawlor and their children Jacob and Jonathan. She also leaves behind a much-loved foster sister, Janice Parnell.

Helen was laid to rest at Amos Lodge cemetery in Wakefield, Mass., overlooking Lake Quannapowitt, which she loved to walk around. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations can be given in Helen’s memory to ORT America, Glen Helen Association, or Mazon.