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Eric S. Kline Remembered

Monday, August 3, 2015

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When Eric S. Kline was awarded the American Institute of Steel Construction's (AISC) Lifetime Achievement Award in March 2014, AISC recognized him as “one of the leading experts on coatings.”

But in a May 2015 profile in JPCL, Kline humbly looked back on his years in the industry and shared what guided him in all he did, saying, “I set out to try to make things better for the industry, be of service, and of course, top priority, raise my family.”

Kline passed away Friday, July 31, at the age of 71.

Eric S. Kline, KTA
KTA-Tator, Inc.

Kline's first job at Fort Pitt Bridge Works came at a fortuitous time; it coincided with a momentous shift in industry practices that paved the way for his future career path.

Those who worked with Kline painted a picture of a man who had a driving passion for the industry he served, believed in the value of volunteering his time, was blessed with wit and a way with words, and was a master of his craft.

A Life in Coatings

Despite casting himself as “a young person born on the wrong side of the tracks. I grew up poor, fed with mouse crumbs,” Kline pursued a Bachelor of Science in chemistry from Ursinus College (Collegeville, PA) and his Master of Business Administration from the University of Pittsburgh.

With a family at home, Kline wanted a steady job and went to work for the Fort Pitt Bridge Works in Canonsburg, PA, as plant manager for its steel fabricating division.

His first step into the industry happened to come at a fortuitous time, as it would influence the path his career would take in the years to come.

“In 1970, the industry decided to switch new bridges away from being coated with red lead paint, to being coated with zinc-rich primer,” said Kline. “Nobody there knew anything about zinc-rich paint, so it was my job to become the paint expert.”

That expertise led him to SSPC, blast-cleaning standards and Ken Tator, who became a consultant for the Bridge Works. After the Bridge Works closed, Tator eventually reached out to Kline, asking him to join the team at KTA-Tator, Inc. as senior consultant. He and Tator worked together for more than 30 years.

Kline retired as executive vice president of KTA-Tator. During his tenure, he worked on failure analyses for a variety of industries, expanded the company’s training programs and served as instructor, consulted on major bridge maintenance projects, and facilitated KTA’s entry into working with government programs in addition to private, corporate clients. He also played a key role in starting KTA’s steel inspection group.

Russ Brown and Eric Kline

In 2010, Kline (at right) was awarded SSPC's Technical Achievement Award, one of many honors received throughout his career.

Kline was also an active member of SSPC, through which he was an SSPC-certified Protective Coatings Specialist. In its earliest days, Kline helped with fundraising for the association.

He played a role in the writing and revision of SSPC standards on surface preparation and coatings for steel structures. He also helped establish the Painting Contractor Certification Program and the SSPC-QP 3 standard for certifying contractors while serving in SSPC committee chair roles.

Other associations benefitted from his participation as well, including NACE International and AISC.

At AISC he was involved in the development and implementation of the original paint endorsement for the AISC Certification Program. He also worked on coating issues for the National Steel Bridge Alliance (NSBA) and helped complete AISC’s edge grinding study, AISC reported in 2014. He continued to work at that time with the AASHTO/NSBA Steel Bridge Collaboration as well.

In addition to his Lifetime Achievement Award from AISC, Kline earned two of SSPC’s highest honors: the Honorary Life Member Award and the John D. Keane Award of Merit.

Eric Kline and wife, Suzie
Family photos courtesy of Kline family

Kline met his wife, Suzie, while studying at Ursinus College; they married in 1966.

JPCL, for which he was a prolific writer, recognized him as a JPCL Top Thinker in 2009. Technology Publishing Company founder Harold Hower indicated that Eric had written “some of the most influential articles ever published in JPCL.

In fact, the “rapid deployment” process he is known for was conceptualized in a January 2000 JPCL article he coauthored with Carl A. Angeloff of Bayer. Rapid deployment is an innovative surface preparation and coating application method that utilizes quick-drying materials when repainting overpass bridges and helps reduce traffic delays.

Kline indicated even in 2015 he continued to get emails from people who wanted to talk about rapid deployment.

A Man Who Gave Back

Following his retirement from KTA, Kline continued to share his time and expertise with both KTA and SSPC.

Kline devoted himself to community involvement as well. He served on the local school board, coached the local Little League team, was a member of the Canonsburg Redevelopment Authority, and served on the Canonsburg Hospital board, to name just a few of the commitments that were important to him.

Kline and family

In an interview with JPCL earlier this year, Kline (at far left) said he defined his success in simple terms: "I'm a family guy."

Looking back on his career in May 2015, Kline admitted, “It’s been a wonderful ride, it really has.” For Kline, coatings “became an avocation and eventually a vocation, and became my life’s interest.”

Kline is survived by his wife of 49 years, Suzie; five children; six siblings; nine grandchildren; and 18 nieces and nephews.

The family asks that memorial donations be made to Leukemia And Lymphoma Society, 333 East Carson Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15219, or American Diabetes Association, 100 West Station Square Drive, #1900, Pittsburgh, PA 15219.

Condolences and tributes can be made and viewed at Beinhauer Funeral Home or


Tagged categories: American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC); Eric Kline; KTA-Tator; North America; Obituaries; Program/Project Management

Comment from Leonard Phelps, (8/3/2015, 1:16 PM)

I was saddened today learning about Eric’s passing. I did not know Eric closely, but the times we did share always left me with the impression that Eric wanted to help, readily sharing his expertise with projects that we had in common. He will be missed by the coatings community that he served. My condolences to his family, my prayers are with you during this difficult time.

Comment from Richard Vieira, (8/3/2015, 1:27 PM)

Eric will be missed. Always a kind gentleman with a wonderful sense of humor. So sorry to hear of his passing.

Comment from Stephen Pinney, (8/3/2015, 4:57 PM)

My most sincere condolences to the Kline family. Eric was a good friend and a great asset to our industry. He will be missed!

Comment from Amy Liposky Vincent, (8/4/2015, 3:54 PM)

So sorry to hear of Eric’s passing. When I was new to SSPC, Eric graciously answered many questions so I could learn about the industry and help our members. He was generous with his knowledge and patient with a newbie. The mere mention of his name always makes me smile. Eric had a great smile and usually a smart alec comment just behind it! He will be sorely missed. My sympathy to the Kline family. You are all in my thoughts and prayers.

Comment from Lydia Frenzel, (8/4/2015, 4:03 PM)

Eric and I had many conversations over the years as we tried to figure out "what the heck was happening" even if we were on opposite sides of a discussion. It is an understatement that he will leave a hole in our extended industrial family.

Comment from edwin call, (8/5/2015, 11:11 AM)

Thanks for all the great conversations, laughter and support... You will be fondly remembered and missed.

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