Donald Kleckner was born in Clyde, Ohio in 1920 and attended Heidelberg College, where he received his BA degree in 1942. After serving in the United States Navy during World War II, Kleckner entered the University of Michigan. He received two degrees from that institution: M.A. in 1947 and Ph.D. in 1953. Following his doctorate, he studied at the University of Birmingham (England). Kleckner began his teaching career at Heidelberg College in 1948. In 1952, he joined the faculty of Bowling Green State University, where he became Chairman of the Speech Department. Kleckner came to Elmhurst as dean of the College in 1962. In 1965, he became the first Elmhurst president since Peter Goebel (president 1880-1887) who had not attended Elmhurst, and the first president who was not a minister. Kleckner resigned in 1971 to assume the presidency of Chapman College in California. Dr. Kleckner died in 2006.
Papers include press releases; writings and speeches; inaugural programs, invitations, and plans; clippings; and the "President's Bulletin," a regular newsletter produced by the office of the President for the campus community.