Irwin ElsonIrwin L. Elson

Irwin L. Elson was born May 19, 1939 in Detroit, Mich. A lifelong resident of southeast Michigan, Elson graduated from Michigan State University in 1961 with a BA in Social Science.

In 1962, Elson began a 27 year career in industrial distribution. He quickly became an expert in business-to-business direct mail marketing after co-founding J&L Industrial Supply in 1969. Upon its sale to Kennametal Corporation in 1989, J&L had grown into a leading, nationally-known mail order firm with locations throughout the United States. At this point, Elson decided to change his focus from entrepreneurship to intrepreneurship and served as a Corporate Vice President and Board Member of J&L, which eventually became a separately listed company with the New York Stock Exchange.

Currently, Elson is an investor in various opportunities. He is most proud of the family investment in Diama-Shield, a floor finishing co. that specializes in polished concrete floor preparation and maintenance of many national big box retailers.

Elson is a philanthropist who spends most of his time engaged in civic activities. Over the last 20 years, he has proudly served on several Michigan State University Alumni Advisory Boards, and states that one of his projects for 2013 is to “help ensure that the Broad Art Museum continues to grow and maintain its position as a leading center for the expression of art”.

Recently, Elson served as the Planning and Allocations Director for the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and currently serves on the organization’s Board. He was also honored to serve as President of the Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit.

Additionally, Elson is a former Member of the Detroit 300 Anniversary Public Art Committee and is one of the founders of “Cabaret 313”, a musical performance series that travels to different locations in downtown Detroit, featuring top entertainers. Currently, he serves as a Board Member of the Berman Center for the Performing Arts, now in its second year of high value performance.

Elson married his wife Judith in 1964 and together they have two daughters, Robyn and Denise, both of which are MSU graduates. They also have 5 grandchildren. Elson resides with his wife in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., and his hobbies include collecting art, travel and bird-watching. When asked about retirement, Elson says “I am not retired. I am just continually reprocessing."