Dick Elwell – Our Newest Emeritus Member

Below are remarks presented by Norman Herbert at our June 24, 2020 meeting:

President Rosemarie and Fellow Rotarians,

It is my distinct pleasure to introduce you to Dick Elwell, our newest Emeritus member, a member of this Club since July 1988.  Jim Irwin and John Eman sponsored Dick for Rotary membership.

Dick was born in Marshall, Michigan and raised on Gull Lake (between Kalamazoo and Battle Creek).

Career wise Dick says it took him to age 40 to finally get his act together.  Following graduation with an MBA from the Michigan State Business School, Dick was in a two-year training program at Ford before joining the Corporate labor relations staff in 1967 when Ford was the national strike target. Walter Reuther was running the UAW at that time. Dick considered the experience wonderful, but when negotiations were completed he realized he probably wasn’t cut out to be the president of Ford Motor and he pursued other career opportunities.

Dick was a human resource consultant with Arthur Young & Company ( a big 8 public accounting firm). He considers the timing to have been fortunate since it was when President Nixon imposed wage and price controls on the entire nation. Dick was named to be the Detroit office “expert” on wage price control for consulting purposes. Through some good fortune and much personal initiative he was able to parlay that opportunity into a nation-wide consulting activity with the health care industry. He led a group that conducted seminars around the country, wrote two books and got the firm named as consultants to the price commission in Washington DC. He also got the firm appointed as consultants to the wage price commission in the state of Michigan. While doing this he also managed to conduct executive searches and do personnel consulting with firm clients. He describes this as a very fun two -year ego trip. With the end of wage/price controls, in spite of his tremendous success, he knew that as a consultant he would be a third-class citizen in a public accounting firm behind the audit and tax staffs.

His next adventure took Dick and the family to Neenah, Wisconsin where he was the corporate manager of compensation and recruiting for Menasha Corporation. This was a short-lived adventure as he was “home sick” for Michigan athletics and an opportunity arose for him to come back to Adrian, Michigan as the VP of Human Resources for a family owned manufacturing company.

After five years, good fortune struck. Dick was fired from his job as VP Human Resources. He maintains this was the best thing that ever happened to him and his career. After overcoming the initial shock, he made the decision that he wanted to live where he chose to live not where a job took him, and he wanted to do things his way. So, in 1980 the firm Elwell & Associates, a nation-wide Executive Search firm was established, based in Ann Arbor.

Dick is proud of the fact that he produced a positive cash flow in the first 3 months, paid off his bank loans in 6 months and never looked back. He developed a client base from coast to coast and border to border. He loved what he was doing as each assignment was different and he always worked with different people. Dick feels very fortunate to have had a very successful career.

Dick met Lynn in the 6th grade (must have been love at first sight). They had their first “date” in the 7th grade (junior high Halloween dance). They began to “go steady” as freshmen in high school and the rest is history. Both graduated from Albion College and were married in August 1962 following graduation. This August they will celebrate their 58thanniversary.

Dick was very active in high school as class officer, student council president and athletics – Captain of the football team, played basketball and ran track – played in the band, acted in the school plays, member of the varsity club and the school science club. He graduated number 4 in his class. His two claims to fame are: he made the varsity football team as a freshman and the first play of his first game he threw a touchdown pass and for a number of years he held the school record in the 100-yard dash (10.0 flat).

At Albion he was president of his fraternity (Delta Sigma Phi) a member of the Interfraternity council and ran on the track team.

Things you probably don’t know about Dick:

-having been raised on a lake he learned to swim, sail and water ski at a very young age. Through the years as a sailor he has been fleet champion in the lightning class and has sailed on inland lakes, the great lakes, the Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean. He singled handedly sailed a 40-foot boat in the Atlantic in 30 knot winds and 15 foot seas. Lynn refers to that as the vacation from hell. For many years Dick raced sailboats on Devils Lake located in the Irish Hills. They have been active in the Devils Lake Yacht Club where he served as Commodore. They still have a power boat on the lake.

-both Dick and Lynn are certified scuba divers. They have dived in many places around the world including the Turks and Caicos, Honduras, Belize and Palau in the Pacific Ocean. The Palau trip was the most memorable because half of the Japanese navy is sunk there and they dove with many 15-foot long sharks.

-Dick & Lynn had UM season football tickets for 54 years and in that period of time they missed one home game. For many years they also went to all of the away games, attended 7 Rose Bowl games, as well as many others. They also held season tickets to Michigan hockey and attended a NCAA national championship, which Michigan won. They continue to have season tickets to basketball and have attended two National championship games with the Fab Five.

– While they lived in Wisconsin (Appleton) Dick obtained his Pilots license. On weekends when Michigan was playing football away he would get in a plane, climb to 8,000 feet and use the radio direction finder to tune into WJR and listen to Bob Ufer broad cast the game (what a nut).

– After returning to Ann Arbor Lynn arranged for him to fly a WWII fighter plane (what a blast he recalls).

-The two of them also went zip lining in the mountains of Barbados.

-The dynamic couple loved to travel. They have been on all 7 continents of the world, have visited over 110 different countries (many on more than one occasion). They have taken 33 cruises and many land tours. It’s hard to find many places they haven’t been (yes North Korea is one of those places).

It was in Adrian that Dick became involved in Rotary. As a Rotarian he was asked to serve on the board of directors of the Lenawee County Red Cross. In very little time he was elected Chairman of the board of the Lenawee Red Cross. He was also elected to the board of directors of the Adrian Rotary Club.

Dick joined the Ann Arbor Rotary Club in 1988. His Club involvements include being:

  • an original member of the Tree Planting committee and attending many tree planting functions.
  • a member of the board of directors which lead to Dick and Peter Wright organizing and chartering both the Huron and Pioneer Interact clubs.
  • on the Interact committee after the founding of those clubs.
  • on the Touch a Truck Committee for several years (along with Lynn), and
  • currently a member of the Club’s Foundation Development Committee.

 

Dick is a Paul Harris +9 member, a member of the Legacy Circle and the Sustainers Society.

Dick is probably best known for his involvement with bowling. In his first year of membership he was recruited by Bill Stegath and Art Coxford to join the Rotary bowling team. In 1999 Art was diagnosed with a very dangerous and fast acting cancer. He asked Dick to take over the bowling “committee” until he returned. Unfortunately, Art passed away soon after his request and Dick has served as the “committee chair” for the past 21 years, probably making him the longest lasting committee chair in Club history and also earning the title as “Kegler-in-Chief”. Dick has been on 5 league championship teams.

Dick and Lynn have one daughter and a grand-daughter.  Dick hopes to be as active in the Club as he can while he acts as full-time care giver to the love of his life who has Alzheimer’s.

It’s now my honor to present Dick Elwell, a 32- year member of our Club, as our newest Emeritus Rotarian.

Presented by: Norman G. Herbert (June 24, 2020)