Helping others as doctor, university official, photographer and teacher

By Wayne Bryan Published March 2, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Dr. Wesley Kluck learned from his father and a former president of Ouachita Baptist University that the key to happiness in life often lies in service to others. Kluck took that advice seriously and now works as a doctor and as the vice president of student services at OBU.

Maybe someday Dr. Wesley Kluck will tell someone, “No.”

However, considering that the major influences in his life — his father, Carl Wesley Kluck Sr., and Ben Elrod, a former president of Ouachita Baptist University — both stressed to him that the key to happiness is to live his life in service to others, it is not likely he will turn down many jobs offered to him.

First and foremost, Wesley Kluck is a physician — a pediatrician. He spent some 12 years building a practice in Arkadelphia from the ground up and by himself.

“I was on call 24/7 all those years,” Kluck said. “To take a vacation, I had to hire someone to see my patients so I could get three days away and not make any money. I only remember three short vacations in that period.”

Today, he has a clinic on the OBU campus that sees college students. He said it is a job for which he is not paid by the university. He said he sees from 10 to 25 students per day, three times a week.

“And since students don’t just get sick on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I am often there every day,” Kluck said.

Serving as a doctor at OBU is an informal position for Kluck. His job at the university is as vice president of student services, which means he is involved in almost every aspect of student life on campus.

“In some schools, this would be the dean of students,” he said. “But when I was asked about the post, I said I didn’t want to handle student discipline, and there is now a dean of students that reports to me.”

While this may seem to be two jobs that could become all-consuming for one person, and Kluck said it can be at times, these are just two of the hats he wears in the Arkadelphia community. He is also a leader in efforts to bring in industry and new businesses to the region to create better-paying jobs for its residents.

There are also the courses he teaches on campus in a subject he never studied in college, as well as the classes taught in his home to students, including football players from both OBU and rival Henderson State University.

Maybe it would be better to start at the beginning, before Kluck thought about any of these careers.

Kluck has always called Arkadelphia home, but he was actually born in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1955. He father was attending Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary there. After graduation, Kluck Sr. came to serve at Second Baptist Church of Arkadelphia when Junior was only 18 months old.

It wasn’t until high school that Kluck Jr. decided what he wanted to do as a career.

“I said then that I wanted to be a math teacher,” Kluck said. “I admired one of my high school math teachers, and I thought it would be the coolest job.”

So, when Kluck attended Ouachita Baptist as a student, he was a mathematics and education major. He said he had already accumulated 90 credit hours of math and education when one of his mentors suggested that he might enjoy a life with an even greater dedication to public service than a teacher — that of a doctor.

“I was really a senior at school when I changed my major to pre-med,” Kluck said. “I still had a major in math because I didn’t want to lose the credits I already had, but I also then majored in chemistry and biology.”

After graduation, he moved to Little Rock and studied medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

As if he wasn’t busy enough as a medical student at UAMS, Kluck began a serious study of two things he would have by his side the rest of his life. The first thing was a wife, and the second was a camera.

“In Little Rock, I lived in the Baptist Student Union near the medical center,” Kluck said. “One of the regulations imposed by the BSU was that we had to attend every dance and other function planned by the club. The first time I went, there were five girls there: Three were named Debbie, and they all had brown hair and eyes.

“In over a month of coming to the events, I discovered one of the Debbies was a medical-technology student at the school, and I asked her out. We married in my senior year of medical school.”

Already a talented photographer, Kluck said, he wanted a professional-grade camera as a present from his new wife, and she purchased him a Cannon AE1, a camera he would use to learn more about photography and improve his skills.

As a resident doctor at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, Kluck said, he had the camera with him all the time, as well as a book on photography.

“I was on call, so I had time to read it,” he said. “I would read a chapter, and I would try out everything I had learned on my pictures. I would go to a one-hour photo-developing shop and see what I had learned. I would read the next chapter and try it again.”

Meanwhile, Debbie had graduated and was working at the Veterans Affairs hospital near the UAMS campus while her husband worked his residence.

When he finally received his Doctor of Medicine degree, he returned to Arkadelphia and opened his clinic.

“I had always been fascinated by photography and the technology of cameras,” Kluck said. “I remember receiving my first box camera.”

During the years while Kluck was trying to run the clinic on his own, he said, his photography skills did not grow much, but he said that by the time he joined OBU, he had purchased a $4,000 camera that was one of the first professional-grade digital cameras made.

His photography and medicine helped with his being hired by the school, he said.

“I was the team physician, and I was taking pictures of the OBU Tiger games and giving the pictures to the athletes when the university president, Andy Westmoreland, offered me a job at the school,” Kluck said.

What Westmoreland did not know was that Kluck’s clinic was slowing down without him.

In November 2005, Kluck said, he had a bad pain in his back, and he was driving to Baptist Health Hospital in Arkadelphia. When he awoke, he was in the ICU at Baptist Health in Little Rock.

Doctors told Kluck that he had a condition that caused the blood vessels to his kidneys to swell and endanger his kidney function.

“A doctor came in and said I had a 90 percent chance of dying with the disease [if I took] chemotherapy and a steroid by mouth every day for a couple of years, but that I had no chance of surviving if I did not.”

He chose to have the therapy but found out it also carried the condition that he would not be able to be around people or treat patients for the next several years.

However, the medicines worked, and the 60 percent kidney-function failure that he had been told would be with him forever showed signs of a 50 percent return to function.

Kluck said he thought the disease he had encountered was aggravated by the stress of his medical practice. So when OBU called, he was already looking for another job.

Kluck joined the school as vice president of institutional development, a job he kept until the current university president, Rex Horne, asked Kluck and Vice President for Student Services Keldon Henley to switch jobs.

“I was not trained for either of the two jobs I have held at Ouachita,” Kluck said, “but once I was asked to take them on, I accepted the responsibility and ran things by the seat of my pants until I caught on, with the help of a lot of people.”

Meanwhile, after he started working at OBU, he was asked to serve on a committee to write a strategic plan for Clark County’s economic development.

The committee he worked with started the Clark County Economic Development Corp. to help steer the county into the 21st century.

“It was a frustrating time, and we saw many good ideas go by the wayside,” Kluck said. “Writing the plan and getting the tax base to fund economic development was one of the first achievements of the group. … Without the funds, we are not even in the running,” Kluck said.

Several years ago, when Kluck was posting school pictures on one of the university’s Facebook accounts, he was asked by Jeff Root, dean of the School of Humanities, to teach a course in photography after the school photography teacher left.

“I said I was self-taught, but I also said I would be happy to teach at the school,” Kluck said. “I now teach the beginning course in the fall and an advanced course in the spring. I sometimes think I have to learn more than the students do to stay ahead, but it is working.”

And in his spare time, he serves as a volunteer minister at his church for college students who worship there.

“Five families have Bible studies in their homes, and we are one of the families,” Kluck said. “We have about 30 students come to our house on Wednesday night.”

On Sunday evenings, there is another Bible-study class at the Kluck home for football players of both Ouachita Baptist and Henderson State, their rival from across the street.

“We even met the night after the big rival game last year,” he said. “It was a hard-fought game, but these players have gotten to know each other, and everything went well.”

Wesley Kluck said he enjoys his work, and in 11 years, his medical problems have not returned. He continues to advance his photography, adding new technology such as a camera drone that takes pictures around campus, including hovering over the football field for a unique perspective of the games.

He is keeping ahead of his students, so far.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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