The son of a shopkeeper who placed great emphasis on the value of education, Merle Kling was born in Poland in 1919. When he was two, his family moved to St. Louis. He was a three-time graduate of Washington University, where he earned his bachelor’s (1940), master’s (1941) and doctoral (1949) degrees, all in political science. He also served in the U.S. Army between 1942 and 1945.
Dr. Kling joined the WUSTL faculty in 1946 as a lecturer in political science. After completing his Ph.D., he was named assistant professor in 1950, associate professor in 1954, and full professor in 1961. As a scholar, he specialized in Latin American government and comparative politics. Dr. Kling served two terms as dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (1966–69 and 1973–76), then became the University’s provost in 1976 and its executive vice chancellor in 1980. In 1983, Dr. Kling retired from Washington University.
Merle Kling passed away in May of 2008 at the age of 89. In October of 2009, the University honored Dr. Kling through the official renaming of the Undergraduate Honors Fellowship to the Merle Kling Undergraduate Honors Fellowship.
“Merle Kling was one of the greats of Washington University. He was a wonderful teacher who had a lasting effect on his students. In every role, his insights, his clarity of mind, and his wisdom guided his colleagues and students. His balance and good sense protected both academic freedom and academic quality through the late 1960s and early seventies and kept Washington University a humane and decent place. More than any other person, he taught me what a university is and how we could all join in making it better.”
— Chancellor William Danforth