December 14, 2018

Milton Kline: Stroke of Genius

With a UMW career that spans nearly 39 years, manager of the student painting program Milton Kline knows every university building like the back of his hand. He can be found throughout the week in any residence hall, administration building or classroom wearing his crisp white painting garb and proudly sporting a UMW baseball cap.

Milton Kline, manager of the student painting program, knows every university building like the back of his hand.

Milton Kline, manager of the student painting program, knows every university building like the back of his hand.

Now he’s on the heels of his busiest season. With students leaving campus for summer, he will haul his brushes and rollers into empty rooms. Last year the crew spent 7,400 hours alone painting the apartments in the South Tower of Eagle Landing.

Kline earned a degree in education and taught for a while before leaving the classroom to paint houses full time. That work dried up in the late 1970s thanks to a troubled economy, and he found himself at the gates of UMW.

Fourteen years later, he became manager of the student painting program, where he chooses high-achievers – honor society members, Eagle Scouts – over perfect painters. Students begin their work for him in their freshman and sophomore years and stay until graduation.

“The greatest feeling is knowing that maybe in some way you had a positive influence in the life of a young person,” he said. “Every day I’m greeted by enthusiastic, intelligent, motivated young people who are practicing and testing their life skills working for me.”

Q: What about UMW caught your eye?
A: Desperation for a job. It wasn’t planned; it was a job that was open.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
A: Writing reference letters and giving phone references for students. Watching their confidence and skills grow. Unlike other jobs these students have – waitressing, bookstores – they get to see the rewards of something they’ve accomplished.

Q: You seem really attached to your student staff. Have you been able to build lasting relationships with them?
A: I have so many kids that work for me for so long. I’ve stayed in touch with most of them over the past 25 years. I have five couples who got married from meeting on paint crew. We actually just had our first paint baby.

Q: What is the most challenging part of your job?
A: Meeting deadlines.

Q: Is there something you always have in your tool kit?
A: Not really. Everything I have tends to get paint on it, so I get used to discarding things.

Q: What is your top goal as a manager?
A: Meeting the goals of the university. But also giving the students a learning opportunity within this job. I like to make this a social experience for them.

Q: How many rooms can your crew paint in a day?
A: Let me do some quick math … 7.8 rooms a day.

Q: What’s the toughest spot on campus you’ve had to paint?
A: The dome in Ball Hall.

Q: Do you have any personal mantras you tell yourself every day?
A: Try not to get overextended.