Greg Klaiber lives on in the memories of the UNC community, whether it be as a sound engineer, the digital media lab manager for the Media Resource Center or the guitarist for Durham-based band, American Empire.
Klaiber died on Sept. 17 after several months of battling cancer. Now, students and faculty remember a man who spent his 16-year career encouraging students’ creativity both inside the classroom and on the stage.
A teacher at heart
Klaiber’s job in the Media Resources Center of the Undergraduate Library was to make sure the media and audio lab were functional. He also served as an aid to students and faculty working on multimedia projects.
Yet without him, Suchi Mohanty, the head of the House Undergraduate Library, said the library will be missing the person who makes technology accessible to everyone.
“A lot of Greg’s job involved working one-on-one with students and in group settings with classes,” Mohanty said. “He was so knowledgeable and patient, and he always wanted students to be successful. He cared deeply that students learned something … We’re missing a true teacher at heart.”
Mohanty said Klaiber performed the often less-than-glamorous tasks that kept the MRC running, whether it was patiently dealing with overdue fines or rearranging furniture for presentations. He was dedicated to ensuring students felt comfortable utilizing the library’s creative spaces and left having learned something new.
“He was the best kind of person you would want to work with,” Mohanty said.
Klaiber won the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence for his work at the Media Lab in 2010. He’s credited with developing new ways for library users to benefit from the lab, such as making sure the equipment is up to date for students' assignments.
“Every day is unique,” Klaiber said, when he received the Chancellor’s Award in 2010. “I work with some fantastic people here. That fact makes a huge difference. I serve these people as well as the campus community. It’s a satisfying, rewarding place to spend my time.”
“My passion is sound”
Many knew Klaiber not just as a member of the library, but a member of the Durham-based metal band, American Empire. He was a sound engineer and ran Caveman Studios, which hosted bands throughout the Triangle.
Mohanty said Klaiber's passion for music was obvious.
“I remember talking to him about work a couple years ago,” Mohanty said. “He was telling me, ‘I love my job, I love the people, I love the work, but my passion is sound. And one day, I’m gonna do that full time’ … I remember admiring that so much.”
Class of 2017 graduate, Nate Wagner, also worked extensively with Klaiber on the music scene outside of the library.
“A lot of people in the music community are particular, they don’t really care for everything that comes through the doors,” Wagner said. “But he was generous, kind and very attentive to all kinds of musicians he worked with … A lot of students were impacted by him.”
A poetic crudeness
Wagner met Klaiber like most people at UNC — at the library.
For his first-year seminar’s final project, Wagner's group had to perform and record an original song. Klaiber was brought in to teach the first-years how to use the MRC.
When the group decided to add a live drum track to their song, they turned to Klaiber for help after realizing the cost of recording in professional studios.
“He just said, ‘You can come to my place,’” Wagner said. “He didn’t care, he just said, ‘You know what, just come with a six-pack of beer.’ Then he corrected himself and said, ‘Never mind, you guys are all like 18. Bring some sodas.”
It’s this sense of ‘poetic crudeness,’ Wagner said, that made Klaiber such a humorous and well-liked member of the UNC community.
“Inevitably [equipment] would stop working in the MRC," Wagner said. "In the most PG version of Greg, and once you get to know him that goes away, he would get humorously angry at the technology. It was like something out of a comedy show.”
Wagner’s relationship with Klaiber would grow over the next two years, shifting from his role at the library to the Chapel Hill-Raleigh music community. As an out-of-state student, Wagner was soon introduced to the local music scene through Klaiber. By Wagner’s senior year, he had a wide network of friends in the community and was playing his own shows several times a month.
Klaiber knew how to transcend through different generations and different genres of music, treating Wagner as an equal.
“He was never arrogant,” Wagner said. “He was his true self in front of everyone. That’s the kind of person that I try to be and that most good people try to be — someone who is very kind and welcoming; authentic and very compassionate.”
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