Photos of Klein and Karen Gilhousen

Klein Shaw Gilhousen 1942-2016

By YTI Staff

Special Edition - Klein Gilhousen Memorial Inscribed

Klein Shaw Gilhousen, pioneer and internationally recognized leader in digital communications, passed away April 14, 2016.

Klein was born on April 13, 1942, in West Lafayette, Ohio, to Klein and Eleanor Gilhousen. As a military family, they moved often, living on bases throughout the Midwest and in Newfoundland, Canada. Klein attended Alamo Heights High School in San Antonio, Texas, graduating in 1960. He then attended the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs before going on to UCLA and graduating with a B.S. in Engineering in 1969. In April of 1967, Klein married Karen Coulter in Los Angeles.

Klein started working during high school, first delivering newspapers, and later, making pharmacy deliveries. From 1963-1968, he worked for Electronic Specialty Company in Glendale, California; from 1969-70, for Magnavox in Los Angeles. Subsequently, Klein had a fifteen-year career with San Diego start-up Linkabit (1970-85), a company he helped form. In 1985 he co-founded Qualcomm, Inc. and continued to work there for thirty years.

The family moved to Bozeman in 1991, largely due to the presence of Montana State University. Klein was presented with an Honorary PhD in Electrical Engineering from MSU in 2001. Holding 55 U.S. patents and 350 foreign patents, Klein was described as a genius by Bill Jameson, a retired professor of engineering at MSU. “He’s made such a tremendous contribution to modern digital wireless communication; it’s certainly a valid reason for the university to honor him. He’s a genius” (Bozeman Daily Chronicle, May 12, 2001). Klein and Karen went on to pledge 5 million dollars to the MSU College of Engineering, the single largest gift the university had ever received.

Klein will be remembered most for the invention of CDMA communications technology for cell phones. He cultivated an interest in electronics very early in life, starting with the ham radio, a hobby he continued throughout his life. Klein was also an accomplished pilot and loved aerobatic flying, serving as chairman for the International Aerobatic Club, and competing with both airplanes and gliders. Klein was also a skier, and an instrumentalist, playing trumpet, cornet, flügel horn, and bass and acoustic guitar. He regularly played in the praise team for his church.

Klein was founder and director of the philanthropic Gilhousen Family Foundation; he also supported the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, where he served on the Board of Trustees from 2005 to 2011 and then as part of the National Advisory Board starting in 2012. Most recently, Klein became co-founder and unflagging supporter of Yellowstone Theological Institute, where he served as Chairman of the Board until his passing.

Klein Gilhousen was preceded in death by his parents, Klein and Eleanor Gilhousen, his daughter April Gilhousen, and grandson Bryan Gilhousen. He is survived by Karen, his wife, and children Candance Hall (Seattle, Washington), Philip Gilhousen (Butte, Montana), Aspen Cok (Robert), (Bozeman, Montana), Derek Gilhousen, (Bozeman, Montana). Also by granddaughter Laura Gilhousen, (Missoula, Montana); brothers Michael (Linda) Gilhousen of Spring, Texas; Alan Gilhousen of Beaverton, Oregon; Jon (Debbie) Gilhousen of San Antonio, Texas; and sister Patti Gilhousen Guptill (Roy) of Beaverton, Oregon.

The Gilhousen family would like to gratefully acknowledge the kind and considerate team of professionals that cared for Klein at the end of his life, making it possible for him to be in his home, a place he cherished, and surrounded by loved ones. This wonderful team includes the Copper Spring Ranch team, Klein’s personal staff and pilot, Cottonwood Case Management, Frontier Healthcare, and SCCA Transition Team. A heart-felt thanks goes to each of you for going above and beyond, for caring with sincere warmth and tenderness for our beloved Klein. We will always be grateful for the love and compassion you shared with us, and with Klein.

Memorials may be made to Yellowstone Theological Institute, online at or via check to Yellowstone Theological Institute, P.O. Box 1347, Bozeman, Mont., 59771.

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