Diana Kleman

Assistant professor of social work

With a personal ministry dedicated to working with at-risk children, Diana Kleman introduced The Twelve of Ohio Inc.'s programs of foster care and adoption to northwest Ohio in 1996.

And this fall, after 17 years as director of the agency's Toledo and Findlay offices, her values as a Franciscan Sister have eased her transition to a new, university setting as an assistant professor of social work, she says.

Bluffton's mission resonates with her passion, says Kleman, who has also maintained her ties with The Twelve of Ohio as part-time clinical supervisor of mental health services. She says she enjoys the continued hands-on experience with children particularly because she now has the opportunity to share her passion for social work and to teach potential social workers.

Using donations of school supplies and toiletries that come from St. Mary's Catholic Church in Bluffton every fall, Kleman creates welcome bags for youngsters transitioning into foster care. "Even if it is a 35-cent pack of Tic Tacs, these bags can light up a child's world," she notes.

She also volunteers for Toledo Public Schools as a "surrogate parent" who advocates for the rights of foster children with special educational needs. She has mentored one young woman for nearly 14 years, tutoring her, teaching her social and academic skills and generally being a support system. She considers herself a surrogate mother, Kleman explains, because she does things for the young woman that any family member would do.

Nominated for her commitment to serving Toledo-area children, Kleman was awarded the Community HERO Award in 2005 by the city's then-mayor, Jack Ford.

She is currently finishing her dissertation, on the experiences of classroom teachers with foster-care children, at The Ohio State University's School of Social Work. She holds two master's degrees, one in social work from Case Western Reserve University and one in education from the University of Toledo.