How TEDx came to Dayton

Larry and Marilyn Klaben and their son Jeremy played key roles to bring TEDx here
Larry and Marilyn Klaben and their son Jeremy played key roles to bring TEDx here

By Marshall Weiss, The Dayton Jewish Observer

Dayton’s first TEDx conference, on Nov. 15 at the Victoria Theatre, is a testament to the spirit of volunteerism and optimism among Dayton community leaders. It also shows the difference a teacher can make when he sparks a student’s interest.

One of the electives The Miami Valley School offers its upper school students is TED Talks with social studies teacher Glenn Squiers.

TED is a nonprofit that presents conferences to bring together “the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives.”

The videos of the talks from TED conferences — TED Talks — are available for viewing at

Squiers selects what he considers the most profound talks and shows them to his class as starting points for discussions.

Several years ago, Jeremy Klaben was in his class.

“Jeremy got really excited, so he would show us the videos,” his father, Larry Klaben, said.

During Jeremy’s years at the University of Michigan, he became involved with the TEDx event on campus.

Jeremy Klaben
Jeremy Klaben

Individual communities coordinate TEDx conferences on their own, through special licensing from TED.

“He was so excited about it,” his mother, Marilyn Klaben, added. “He would tell us the dates and we would go up to Ann Arbor for the TED conferences.”

Larry, owner of Morris Home Furnishings, is chair of the board of Wright State University. Marilyn is education director of The Human Race Theatre Company and has served as an adjunct professor at Wittenberg University and Wright State.

The Klabens knew Dayton would be the perfect place for TEDx. They invited some key community leaders from Dayton to join them in Ann Arbor to see TEDx there.

In 2012, Jeremy convinced U of M’s TEDx planning committee to hold its retreat at his parents home in Dayton. The following year, the planning committee returned to the area and held its retreat at the Aileron facility in Tipp City. The Klabens invited Dayton community leaders to sit in.

“So that day, there were representatives from Wright State, Sinclair, UD, Victoria Theatre, the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, UpDayton, Cox Media, the Dayton Development Coalition, SOCHE — they all came as our guests because we said, ‘you’ve got to see this,’” Larry recalled. “They were just taken by the energy and excitement that all these students had about TedX at U of M.”

“It just seemed unanimous that everybody wanted to do it in Dayton and felt it was possible to do it in Dayton and so we went forward,” Marilyn said. “We took a risk by opening up this opportunity to all these community leaders. We didn’t know what would happen. All of the people were so excited and so positive minded, and that energy just propelled us forward.”

Established in 1984, TED originally began as a conference to bring professionals together from three fields: technology, entertainment, and design. Over the years, TED programs expanded in scope and vision.

“You just come out of a TED conference feeling so alive,” Marilyn said. “And so inspired to do more with your life or to refine your goals.”

Larry said his excitement for TED stems from the opportunity to learn from people in fields he wouldn’t otherwise meet.

“Most people have their particular interest or their line of work,” he said. “So they might read publications or go to seminars or go to conferences but they’re in this niche. I go to these business things and I hear about business. Marilyn goes to her theatre conferences. But when you go to the TEDx like the one in Dayton, with 20 speakers, and they’re all from these different fields with all these different ideas, you get these different perspectives that you just don’t normally get.”

Interspersed among the speakers for the full-day program will be performance artists.

“We have two speakers’ coaches that we hired from Miami University,” said Marilyn, who serves on the speakers’ committee, “and the speakers will choose a couple of Tuesdays when we’re going to rehearse at the DAI stage, when they can deliver their TED talk and get feedback.”

All speakers have a connection to the Dayton area. Among those announced as of press time were Dr. Judith Ezekiel, visiting women’s studies professor at Wright State from the Université de Toulouse, France; and physician Dr. David Shuster.

Larry is on the event’s sponsorship committee. He said the committee budgeted $80,000 to put on the program, “and between ticket sales and sponsorship, we’re going to hit our goal.”

TEDx Dayton is $50 per person, including lunch. To register, go to


To view the print version of the November 2013 Observer, click here.

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