Chris Kline ‘92 attended Rollins College from where he graduated with a BA in Psychology in 1996. He worked as a commercial real estate broker at Prudential Solon Gershman and then The Desco Group focusing on sales and leasing of office, retail and industrial properties. After earning his finance-focused MBA from the University of Miami in 2006, Chris went to work for the nation's largest homebuilding company, Lennar, where he worked in Corporate Finance and Treasury. He then returned to St. Louis where for the last thirteen years he has worked for Schnucks in a variety of positions starting with Data and Analytics as well as Pharmacy, Strategy, Pricing, and ultimately Vice President, Bakery. He currently oversees the merchandising and manufacturing operations for 114 full-service supermarket bakeries. He also leads 150 teammates who run Schnucks’ central Bakery plant.
He has been married to his wife, Lizzy for almost 22 years, and they have four children: Sarah ‘21 (sophomore at Colorado University - Boulder), Layla ‘23 (rising freshman at Kansas University), Joe ‘25 (Whitfield sophomore), and Robert ‘28 (future Whitfield student).
Describe how Whitfield prepared you for college (and beyond).
Whitfield had an intensive focus on writing in both English and Social Studies. Students were required to write multiple iterative drafts with the intention of refining raw works into well-crafted, thought-out, and thoroughly-researched final versions. While the practice could often seem redundant, in retrospect it is clear that these skills and behaviors give Whitfield students an advantage when they are asked to write college-level essays. A Whitfield student has effectively written college-level papers since about the middle of sophomore year.
The content taught at Whitfield always sought to make sense of the current events of the era the student is living through by connecting them to lessons of the past. For me, one of the most critical topics taught at Whitfield was the Holocaust. Making students aware of this and other critical events in history and exploring them in depth and with rigorous reflection teaches students not only the facts but also about how to learn and how to incorporate information to shape the students’ lives.
What are you most thankful for from your Whitfield experience, both in and outside of the classroom?
Whitfield was a great fit for me both academically and socially. The student-to-teacher ratio allowed me to get the help and support that I needed but also made me feel like my teachers really knew who I was and that they cared about me. This helped whenever I needed an extra push to keep me focused and on track. Whitfield was also the right size for me socially. I knew everyone in my class and had friends that were older and younger than me as well. I always felt seen and heard at Whitfield, and I still have some very close friends from my time there.
What were your primary interests and activities while you were at Whitfield?
I played sports including basketball and tennis. I was also active in art and actually was one of the sculptors who built the ceramic Whitfield Warrior that stood for multiple decades in the school. For my senior program, back then known as “Quest,” I led a team of classmates who made a feature film. This was back in the day when you had to splice VHS tapes together to edit them. It was a labor of love, but we had a great time with it and a lot of laughs that we remember to this day.
What is your message to the Class of 2023?
Congratulations on your accomplishments at Whitfield. You all have endured one of the most unusual periods in recent history to get to this point. Some of you are raring to go and know exactly what you want to do with your lives, what you want to study, what you are passionate about, and your reason for being. And to you all, I say good luck, and go make it happen. The rest of us are jealous of your clarity. For those who are more like I was and don’t yet know what you want to study next year, much less what you want to do with your lives, to that I say, great! Welcome to the club. It’s ok. The reality is that most people don’t know exactly what they want to do with their lives. For people like you and me, the most important thing is that we keep trying new things. Focus on finding what makes you feel passionate. Be open to new experiences, and say “yes” when you have the opportunity to do something you’ve never done before. Sign up for classes that sound interesting, pick up a musical instrument, train for a half marathon. Whatever it may be, just keep pushing yourself and eventually you too will find out what you want from your life. And for all those people who thought they knew what they wanted and somewhere along the way they changed their mind, that's okay too!
Why is it important to you to give back to Whitfield?
Whitfield is a wonderful place that has afforded me and so many others incredible opportunities to grow. It helps prepare students for the rigors of college but also for life in general. Giving back to Whitfield allows graduates and alumni to stay connected with the school and bolsters the school’s ability to prepare the next generation of students. There are many ways to give back and everyone has something to offer that Whitfield can benefit from and that the individual can feel good about.
Describe your career.
I have had a varied career working within a number of different companies and industries. I started as a commercial real estate broker at Prudential Solon Gershman and then The Desco Group focusing on sales and leasing of office, retail and industrial properties. After I graduated from the MBA program at UM I went to work for the nation's largest homebuilding company, Lennar, where I worked in Corporate Finance and Treasury. Upon return to St. Louis, I have spent the last thirteen years working for Schnucks in a variety of positions starting with Data and Analytics as well as stops along the way in Pharmacy, Strategy, Pricing, and ultimately my latest position of VP, Bakery, or as I like to call it “Chief Donut Officer”. I oversee the merchandising and manufacturing operations for 114 full-service supermarket bakeries offering baked and decorated in-store offerings like donuts, cookies, breads, and birthday cakes. I also have responsibility for leading the 150 teammates who run our central Bakery plant. Leading the Bakery department is a lot of fun and very fulfilling. Our food categories are associated with good feelings and fond memories. I love that we are able to be a part of some of life’s greatest moments like birthdays and anniversaries as well as just about every holiday occasion. I have the opportunity to work with a lot of passionate and talented people who make it all happen. I look forward to continuing to grow in my role at the company and hope to add more responsibility in the future.