By Kevin Wang
The phone rings only once before a voice answers on the other end. “Hey Kevin, how you doin’.” The upfront yet casual greeting catches me slightly off guard. Tonight, I’m talking with Andrew Klaber (ΦBK ’02), a summa cum laude Yale University graduate who’s taking the DC-New York City Amtrak back from a quarterly board meeting of the Association of Marshall Scholars. Klaber speaks with a deliberate, composed tone that hints at a history of speaking often and speaking well. But a quick glance at his Wikipedia profile shows that the weight of his voice is grounded not only in rhetoric but also in action.
During his time at Yale, Klaber double majored in international studies and ethics, politics, and economics. When he wasn’t studying how to become president, he was rowing on the varsity lightweight crew team, teaching financial literacy to middle-schoolers, co-founding the undergraduate political magazine The Politic, and raising money to start Even Ground, an international non-profit that provides support to children affected by HIV/AIDS. After collecting prestigious Truman, Udall, and Marshall Scholarships, Klaber attended Oxford University to earn Master’s degrees in financial economics and economic history before moving to Harvard University for a joint JD/MBA. Today, he works as an investor at Paulson & Company while continuing to advise the new leadership at Even Ground.
Though Klaber has much to feel proud of, in his mind very few honors surpass that of being inducted into Phi Beta Kappa in his junior year at Yale. Growing up in the quiet village of Buffalo Grove, Illinois, he describes academic honor as “always being held on a pedestal above all other honors” in his family. His mother had earned her place in ΦBK as a student at the University of Vermont, and the honor meant so much that Klaber says his grandfather, after hearing the news, immediately booked a Greyhound bus from New York City to Burlington, Vermont, traveling through a blizzard to attend her induction ceremony. When Klaber followed suit over 30 years later, both of his parents flew all the way from Buffalo Grove to witness his induction. He would go on to become president of Yale’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa the following year.
What is extraordinary, however, is Klaber’s grounded sense of gratitude and responsibility even amidst his polished and decorated past. Numerous times in our conversation, he expresses the heartfelt gratitude he has for his undergraduate liberal arts education. Not only has it helped him tremendously in his investing career, allowing him “to see trends that people who have more angular viewpoints can’t see,” but it has also given him a lifelong responsibility to utilize this gift for good. “Members of ΦBK have the great benefit of being classically educated and learned people. But that means that we also have a responsibility to be involved as citizens in the classical sense,” he says.
But for Klaber, the elevated responsibility and status afforded by a liberal arts education is no cause for the disavowal of humility. “You’re never going to know everything,” he says with seasoned deference. “If you had to know everything before doing anything, everybody would be doing nothing.” Klaber views such a realization as cause for learning from others, for finding “good teams and good partners.” He found many of these people during his time at Yale.
I asked Klaber if there was anything he wished he had done differently during college, though I knew that few people would complain to have the academic career he has had.
“I was very cognizant of the risks of doing too much,” he said, dodging the question artfully. “You always want to make sure you’re doing a good job with whatever you’re involved with. I think I did an alright job. But the bar cannot be perfection. It has to be the best that you can do.”
Photo: Andrew Klaber rowing on the varsity lightweight crew team at Yale.
Kevin Wang is a senior at Yale University majoring in molecular biophysics and biochemistry. He was elected to ΦBK as a junior and is currently serving as vice-president of the Yale Phi Beta Kappa chapter. Yale is home to the Alpha of Connecticut Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, founded in 1780.
Follow Kevin on Twitter @kkwang23.