posted 2012-11-21 22:36:45

Bea Klier

Alumni profile  

Scott Tierney

Christine Kitson

Contributing Writers

Bea Klier was born in 1916 to a 16-year- old mother. She enrolled in Hunter in 1933 eager to absorb as much information as possible, and get a quality, affordable education. Now, nearly 80 years later, she stood before a room of Hunter College alumni, faculty, and students, as the keynote speaker at the recent 2012 Alumni Association Luncheon speaking of her  journey from then until now. A journey, that was not always easy, but one filled with adventure, learning, and eventually diverging into many career paths and interests.
Bea was raised by a single mother who was committed to making sure that Bea would be well educated and be prepared for anything that life had in store for her. Her mother, although not formally educated, was very intelligent and determined. No matter what questions Bea asked her, Bea’s mother would figure out the answer. Bea’s mother’s determination inspired her to conduct research and never stop learning about the world. At Hunter, Bea majored in geology resulting from life long fascination with the Earth and the cosmos. Bea graduated from Hunter in 1937. She worked many jobs throughout her life including: civilian meteorologist for the US Air Force during World War II, high school earth science teacher, researcher of climatology with NASA, and director of education at the Academy of Sciences.

On top of all that, Bea Klier was an activist throughout her life. Her progressive minded husband greatly influenced her activism. Her activism began when she was a newlywed. She was working as a secretary at the YMCA and would listen to the speeches of the activists of the day. Bea started her social and political activism focusing on the evictions of people from their homes: “We  picked one family, the man was away in the army and the wife was home with two babies. We went to the local grocery store and brought food to the family and then locked ourselves in. Because the marshal was going to come and put the furniture out in the street. And it worked! That was the mystery.” She goes on to say, “The political climate became better when Franklin Roosevelt was elected. He was very receptive to these kinds of activities (protests, etc.). So when we began to struggle for unemployment insurance and social security and relief. He was receptive. It is an error of history to say that he created them. He didn’t. We did.” Her activism was not limited to the Untied States.
Bea Klier has traveled all across the world, stating: “I want to see things with my own eyes. I have that problem. I don’t accept what is written. Cause I know it is easy to lie or mask the truth with fancy words.” This has been a common theme throughout her life and has spurred much of the travel and exploration.

She has traveled to Costa Rica and Guatemala to do research and see sweatshops for herself. After returning she led an effort to force all businesses in the city to discontinue using those places to manufacture their goods. Later in life, she visited the Arab Emirates, “because I got sick and tired of hearing negative  stuff.” She told stories of the brave women she met and of the misrepresentation of Al-Jazeera in the American media. She also traveled the world for research and exploration. Most recently, at the age of 89, Bea traveled to Madagascar to view solar eclipses.
Bea witnessed injustices in her travels and at home. During her speech she talks about the sexual discrimination and sexual harassment that she faced while starting out in the work force. She witnessed racism and lesbian and gay issues before they became socially acceptable. She approached these issues with a twenty first century outlook.

On topic of social issues Bea notes, “It is unfair to say that we have not made progress, have we won the battle? No.” Still Bea faces struggles today. “I still have a problem. I am a non-religious person and I could never express that. I used to say, yea it’s perfectly ok to say freedom, but what about my freedom. Still haven’t won that yet. I don’t have the right to say that publicly.”
It is incredibly difficult to surmise Bea Klier into one article so thankfully, Bea is currently working on a book and a collection of short stories, that she is hoping to get published soon. Definitely will be a very interesting read. She now is 95 years old yet still exploring and learning.