|Peter Kleist, developer and education supporter, dies|
A UMNS Report
By Linda Green*
Feb. 17, 2009
Peter D. Kleist
Peter D. Kleist, a man with the credo of giving back to the
community and to education, died Feb. 12, at his home in Fort Myers,
A generous developer and philanthropist, he was involved in numerous
church and civic activities where he supported food for the hungry, the
arts, combating addiction, animal welfare and human services. Aside
from his work, his passions were hunting and fishing and he traveled
internationally to pursue those passions.
An individual once asked Kleist, 90, if there was anything that
could be done for him and Kleist said, “You don’t need to do anything
for me, but when you are able, I hope you will find your way to make a
difference for others.”
Making a difference was evident throughout his career as a developer
in Ohio and Fort Myers. The United Methodist layman from Cleveland
built thousands of hotels, homes, offices and industrial centers,
including a three-story residence hall at United Methodist-related
Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe. His affinity and support of
Africa University led him to endow a scholarship in honor of his wife,
Eleanor, and initiate a challenge gift to the East Ohio Annual
conference that resulted in more than 14 endowed scholarships for
students and the building of three residence halls for the school.
Through the Peter D. & Eleanor Kleist Foundation, the couple –
who were married for 68 years – is credited with building up Fort Myers
and as being a powerhouse in the home-building industry in Ohio.
“He was a giant of a man, one of the greatest philanthropists I’ve
ever met and one of my best friends,” said James Salley, associate vice
chancellor of development of Africa University. “He had a commitment to
higher education and to education in general. He touched so many
institutions of higher learning and people in general. He was a great
Born in 1918 in Chicago, Kleist grew up and worked in the steel
mills in Toledo, Ohio. He soon met Dr. Rollin Walker, who told him that
he would finance his education. Soon after graduating from United
Methodist-related Ohio Wesleyan University in 1940 and serving in the
intelligence branch of the United States Army, he began his journey of
“giving back” to the community. He created a scholarship in Walker’s
honor at Ohio Wesleyan and later became a trustee of the school.
In addition to supporting Ohio Wesleyan, he also supported United
Methodist-related Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio; The Methodist
Theological School in Ohio; and, in honor of James Salley, gave $1
million to United Methodist-related Claflin University, Orangeburg,
S.C., for its capital campaign. He also gave a $250,000 capital
campaign challenge gift to United Methodist-related Gammon Theological
School, Atlanta; financed women students’ housing projects at Bethune
Cookman College, Daytona Beach, Fla.; and supported Kentucky Wesleyan
College in Owensboro, Ky. and Union College, Barbourville, Ky. He was
also generous in supporting the Cypress Lake United Methodist Church in
Fort Myers, the Salvation Army and many other schools and charities.
According to William McFadden, Sheffield (Ohio) Village and
executive director of the Kleist Foundation from 1996-2002, Kleist’s
philosophy was “You can never give enough back for all the ways your
life has been blessed.” Kleist’s major motivation for working, McFadden
said, “was gathering money he could give away.”
A memorial service will be held March 2 at Cypress Lake United Methodist Church, Fort Myers, Fla.
In addition to his wife, Eleanor, he is survived by three children –
Kathryn Kleist-Derheimer (Kevin), Donna Kleist and David Kleist – seven
grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to one of
the following: The Kleist Health Education Center in Fort Myers, The
Salvation Army in Fort Myers, or Southwest Florida Addiction Service in
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
Peter Kleist, generous developer, dies at 90
Grant will help make detox center a reality
East Ohio Annual Conference
Ohio Wesleyan University
Baldwin Wallace College
Methodist Theological School in Ohio
Gammon Theological School
Kentucky Wesleyan College
Cypress Lake United Methodist Church