Charles R. Kline

For his achievements in the engineering, launch, and management of world-class petrochemicals complexes, the Schools of Engineering are proud to present the Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award to Charles R. Kline.

President and Chief Executive Officer
EQUATE Petrochemicals (Kuwait)
BSChE '61
[Charles R. Kline, current]

On memories of student life

I enrolled in aeronautical engineering in 1957, because at that time of my life, I enjoyed airplanes. Upon taking my first physics course, I immediately switched to chemical engineering. Physics was not my forte! This was a wise choice I liked it immediately.

I lived in State Street Courts for three years and then moved to Fowler House, a part of State Street Courts. Purdue's first co-ed dorms were State Street Courts numbers 1 and 2. The remainder of the Courts and Fowler House were all male. We shared the dining hall, but the women's courts were off-limits. In 1959, a co-ed dorm was probably leading-edge. It certainly made the dining hall less animal-house-like! I still remember having to take girls' wash out of the dryer! It was embarrassing at times.

In State Street Courts, I was active in student government and became the Social Chairman of both the Courts and the Independent Association. In 1961, I was made Courtier of the Year.

In chemical engineering, I was active in the Catalyst Club (I still have my mug!) and, in 1961, was made Chemical Engineering Student of the Year for my AIChE project solution.

My memories of Purdue include the football games, our great basketball team, and the wonderful shows at the Music Hall. I also remember trudging in the snow from State Street Courts to the Chem E Building and having coffee at the Sweet Shop.

On his top career highlight

In 1993, I was named CEO and President of EQUATE Petrochemicals, a two-billion-dollar joint venture between Union Carbide and Petrochemical Industries Company of Kuwait. This has to be the highlight of anyone's career. To be able to start up a major company from scratch, in a foreign land, and to build and start up a world-scale petrochemical plant is the answer to any engineer's dream. I was able to use both my chemical engineering and management learning. Purdue did me well!

[Charles R. Kline, college days]

Currently, I am still in Kuwait and will be for at least another year. The plant is up and running. The challenge now is to run at capacity and to sell the production a task made much more challenging due to the financial problems in the Far East.

On how he has changed

I do not believe that I have changed much in the 35 years since I was a Purdue student. I have matured, but I still am detail-driven and have retained my sense of humor. I feel that work should be fun. If work isn't fun, then it is work and who likes to work? There are plenty of frustrations in this life, especially running a chemical plant in another country where customs and concerns for safety and profits may be different. A sense of humor can help you get through.

On challenges to come

For the future, the biggest challenge for EQUATE will be the Far Eastern currency crisis and our ability to sell our product at prices which will make a profit. As a new young company, creating a new culture from a blend of Arab, Western and Eastern input is a huge challenge. The next year will be key to a positive future. For me business-wise, this is the biggest challenge; for me personally, what I do when I leave here is a major concern. How do I top this!

On engineering education

I believe that schools need to concentrate on the global nature of the engineering world. Especially in chemical engineering, every corner of the world has similar plants, and the opportunities to work in them are great. Most countries also hire U.S.-based contractors to either design the plants or to build them. It is a small world, and graduating students should consider their opportunities all over the world.

On changes in engineering and education

The major change has been the computers. When I graduated, a TI SR10 cost over $100 and did not even have memory! The students today and the engineers have much more powerful tools to use and can do a better job. But in my business it still gets down to nuts, bolts, flanges, valves, etc. These have not changed a whole lot.



President and CEO of EQUATE Petrochemicals in Kuwait, a joint venture of Union Carbide and Petrochemical Industries Company (Kuwait). Responsible for all aspects of design, construction and start-up; employee recruitment and training; strategic planning, marketing and sales.
Vice President of Production, Solvents and Intermediates Division, Union Carbide. Exercised total management over operations that produced more than one billion pounds of chemicals annually in U.S.
Director of Operations for Solvents and Intermediates, Union Carbide.
Corporate Director of Health, Safety, and Environment, Union Carbide. This department was created in response to the Bhopal accident. Implemented health and safety policies that have become industry-wide standards.
Director of Operations for Hydrocarbons, Union Carbide, Danbury, Connecticut. Responsible for operation and production of five billion pounds of ethylene and propylene per year from five North American locations.
Plant Manager and President, Union Carbide Puerto Rico. Negotiated a feedstock arrangement with Venezuela that returned the plant to profitability after favorable tax status was phased out.
Plant Manager, Union Carbide. Oversaw start-up of Star Unipol Polyethelene Plant in Taft, Louisiana, the first totally grassroots and independent Unipol plant of its kind, designed and built without the support of an adjacent petrochemicals complex.
Assistant Plant Manager, Union Carbide, Ponce, Puerto Rico. Responsible for plant's Cumene, Phenol, and Bisphenol A Units; health, safety, and environmental issues; distribution; and accounting.

BSChE '61, MSIM '62, Purdue