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Dark view with cool lights inside Barton Hall during the Grateful Dead concert. The band is on stage and the hangar is packed with people.

The Grateful Matchmaker

Robert Klein at the Grateful Dead concert in Barton Hall
Robert Klein ’97 and his wife, Anissa (CALS, ’98), at the Dead & Company concert in Barton Hall.

Robert Klein ’97 has a long history of giving back to the ILR School in a variety of ways, but last October, he got a chance to provide the entire Cornell community with a once-, or for a lucky few, a twice-in-a-lifetime experience – seeing Dead & Company at Barton Hall.

A long-time fan, Klein has attended countless Dead shows, including several with one of his partners at RedBird Capital, Mark Dowley, who maintains a close relationship with the band’s management team.

“One day, Mark walked into my office and mentions that Dead & Company are doing their final tour and they’re thinking about recreating 5/8/77,” Klein said. “It was hard to believe, and I told him I would jump at the chance to be helpful as he said he thought the band would be really into it if Cornell would agree.”

Klein immediately called Harlan Work, associate director of ILR Alumni Affairs and Development, and that was the start of what would eventually become an unforgettable evening for the 4,800 members of the Cornell community who attended the sold-out show.

“The show was definitely not my idea, so I’m reluctant to take any credit,” Klein said. “If anything, I would say that I was a matchmaker. We connected the right people, we let the experts take over and they did an amazing job. It was just a spectacular event.”

“The concert itself was just amazing. Many of us think it's the best we've ever seen from Dead & Company, period. Full stop. The place was rocking. The band's energy was great. The setlist was incredible. Barton Hall, the acoustics, but also the history and the mystique of 5/8/77 hung in the air and just made it such a special show.

"Everybody walked out of there with a huge smile on their face.”

Beyond being a memorable night for fans, the concert also served as a fundraiser for Cornell’s 2030 Project, which aims to accelerate real-world solutions to climate change, and MusiCares, a nonprofit that supports the health and welfare of music industry professionals.

“The Dead & Company show at Barton Hall was an amazing evening, made all the more magical because it helped support ambitious climate work at Cornell in this decisive decade for climate action,” said Ben Furnas, 2030 Project executive director. “Addressing climate change will take all of us – and it is so meaningful to have Cornell’s alumni network mobilized at this critical time,”

An ILR Alumni Association Finance Council member, Klein typically returns to campus twice a year for meetings and to speak with students at ILR Finance Roundtable events.

“I'm a proud Cornell alum, as is my wife, Anissa [CALS, ’98],” Klein said. “I’m very grateful and appreciative for the role ILR has played in my life. The value of what ILR and Cornell did for me is just immeasurable. So, for me, I'm always looking at ways to give back and ways to be helpful and create meaningful experiences in any way that I can.”