LSU Boyd professor retires after a 40-plus year career



BATON ROUGE-  Thomas Klei, PhD, LSU Boyd professor, has retired after a distinguished career as a researcher, administrator and mentor. He joined the faculty at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine (LSU SVM) in 1975 and served as a professor of veterinary microbiology and parasitology and the associate dean for research and advanced studies at the LSU SVM before taking on the role of interim vice chancellor for the LSU Office of Research and Economic Development.More than 100 people attended the retirement reception in his honor on February 29, 2016.


The reception was preceded by a workshop on “Parasitic Worms and Other Things: From Horses to Humans,” which featured Sara Lustigman, PhD, head of the Laboratory of Molecular Parasitology at the New York Blood Center, and David Horohov, PhD, chair of the Department of Veterinary Science and director of the Maxwell H. Gluck Equine Research Center at the University of Kentucky.


Dr. Klei’s friends and colleagues commented on his professionalism and mentorship.


Konstantin G. “Gus” Kousoulas, PhD, associate vice president of the LSU Office of Research and Economic Development, said, “Tom Klei has been a friend and mentor for my entire career at LSU. He has been a key administrator that kept me at LSU during difficult times, which resulted in the $30 million COBRE grant (over 15 years) on infectious diseases in collaboration with the Tulane National Primate Research Center. We have also worked together to obtain and sustain the approximately $60 million INBRE Louisiana Biomedical Research Network (LBRN) Program, for which Tom had served as the Principal Investigator. His demeanor, intelligence, love for science, people and family are examples that I aspire to follow. His service to LSU and the School of Veterinary Medicine has been immense. We will count on him to continue advising us as an Emeritus Professor.”


James E. Miller, DVM, MPVM, PhD, interim associate dean for research and advanced studies, said “Tom has been a friend, colleague and mentor for the 32 years I have been at LSU. I remember early on the many ‘festive’ bus/van trips we had going to the Southern Society of Parasitologists’ meetings, where he and others made the long trips enjoyable. We have not collaborated on projects as our interests differ, but we have coordinated the Faculty of Parasitology in hosting many things including the Second Novel Approaches for the Control of Helminth Parasites of Livestock (1998), the 19th Conference of the World Association for the Advancement of Veterinary Parasitology (2003) and numerous crawfish boils. One memorable event was when a few of us went on an excursion to a hacienda in Argentina, and we were a sight riding around on horses under the guidance of a real. All in all, I have appreciated every minute of his time and wish him well in retirement.”


John Malone, DVM, PhD, professor of parasitology, said, ”Tom and I go back a long way, more than 40 years. We first became friends and colleagues while he was a post-doc and I was a graduate student at the University of Georgia working on Professor Paul Thompson’s NIH filariasis research project. We both joined the faculty at LSU within a year of one another (1974-1975) and began the arduous process of growing an emerging parasitology program at LSU’s new veterinary school. First was the professional teaching program, then a state diagnostic capability, and then the complexities of establishing research and graduate education programs. Over the years it was always good to work alongside Tom; he always got things done and had fun doing it. This same formula served Tom well in the star roles he later played in LSU administration focusing on bringing LSU research programs to their rightful place among major research universities. We wish Tom good hunting and good fishing and hope that he plays an active emeritus role at LSU in the future.”


Dennis French, DVM, DABVP, professor of veterinary medicine and interim head of the Department of Veterinary Clinical Medicine at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, said, “Dr. Klei taught me how much fun it could be to work and perform as a clinician scientist. He provided an atmosphere of collegiality, comradery and professionalism that extended from bench top laboratory studies to applied research conducted on feral ponies all the way to high dollar thoroughbred horses. And he taught me how to drink beer from a boot!”


James LaCour, DVM (LSU SVM 1991), state wildlife veterinarian with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, said “Dr. Klei provided me with the opportunity to grow and learn and nurtured me as a son during my time at LSU. I became part of his family...and not just his work family."


Joel Baines, VMD, PhD, dean of the LSU SVM and Dr. Kenneth F. Burns Chair in Veterinary Medicine, said, “Tom Klei has been a strong advocate for research in the School of Veterinary Medicine and more broadly as the interim vice chancellor for research at LSU. As PI of the INBRE grant, he has impacted research throughout Louisiana and has exposed both faculty and students to research opportunities and a level of scientific rigor they would not otherwise have been able to experience. He has influenced many scientific careers, some of which were in his laboratory, and some of which were not. For the latter, he has been able to see synergies and advise people to take them. This has benefitted many at the University, not the least of which are our graduate students and faculty, but also our veterinary students who enjoy a culture that values research from the first day they arrive. Tom, has led by example, having maintained his own research program, funded primarily through NIH. He has been, and continues to be, a gentlemen scientist of the highest caliber.”


Dr. Klei arrived at LSU in the School of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Microbiology and Parasitology in August 1975 from Millersville State College in Pennsylvania. He taught parasitology courses in the veterinary curriculum since that time.


In 1976 he was jointly appointed in the Department of Veterinary Science in the LSU Agricultural Center, where he developed a research program on helminth parasites of horses. He was promoted to the rank of Boyd Professor in 1996, the highest professorial rank in the University System. He subsequently served as the Associate Dean for Research and Advanced Studies in the School of Veterinary Medicine for 11 years and more recently as LSU Interim Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development from 2010 through 2013.


Dr. Klei’s research is on the biology and host parasite relationships of nematode parasites with a current focus on immunology and pathogenesis in experimental models of human lymphatic filariasis. His current research is funded by a National Institutes of Health (NIH) R01 sub-contract as part of a team to develop a vaccine against onchocerciasis. The grant is currently being reviewed for a renewal. He has had continuous extramural support for his researchh from NIH, the World Health Organization, the USDA and the pharmaceutical industry since 1976.


Dr. Klei has been the principal investigator (PI) on the NIH Louisiana IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) grant since 2007 and is the co-director of a NIH T32 grant. He is also co-investigator of a NIH Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) grant in Experimental Infectious Disease. He originated and was the PI of a NIH T35 grant for training of veterinary students in biomedical research, which is still in place. He has trained numerous graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and research assistant professors over the past 40 years and served on many SVM and University committees as well and national and international groups.


For more information about Dr. Klei, contact Ginger Guttner at


The LSU School of Veterinary Medicine is one of only 30 veterinary schools in the United States, and the only veterinary school in Louisiana. The LSU SVM is dedicated to improving the lives of people and animals through education, research and service. We teach. We heal. We discover. We protect.