Elroy John Kulas was born in Cleveland in 1880. “E.J.” was educated in Cleveland public schools and at age 18 went to work in the freight department of the B & O Railroad. Three years later, he joined the National Electric Lamp Association (NELA), a joint venture of the Sunbeam- and Fostoria Incandescent Lamp Companies and the General Electric Company.
During World War I, Mr. Kulas left NELA and became a founder of Cuyahoga Stamping & Machine Company. In 1917, the co-founders of NELA joined others in purchasing the Peerless Automobile Company and soon thereafter engaged E. J.
In 1923, E.J. left Peerless and formed the Midland Steel Products Company by merging a Cleveland steel company with two in Detroit. Years later, it became the core of Midland-Ross Corporation. Kulas remained president of Midland Steel Products from its founding until his death in 1952. But in 1925, in a highly unusual step, he took on added responsibility as president of the Otis Steel Company, a position he held until 1942 when Otis was acquired by Jones & Laughlin Steel.
Mr. Kulas also served as a director of the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railroad, the Pittsburgh & West Virginia Railroad and the North American Coal Company.
Deeply interested in music, E.J. served as a vice president of the Musical Arts Association, parent to The Cleveland Orchestra, and was a trustee of the Northern Ohio Opera Association and Cleveland Chamber Music Society. He and his wife Fynette had a particular fondness for Baldwin-Wallace College, where he was a trustee for many years. The first major grant of the Kulas Foundation was to Baldwin-Wallace for its Conservatory of Music.
Elroy J. Kulas died in his home in Cleveland on May 12, 1952. He and Fynette are buried at Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.
Fynette Hill Kulas was born, raised and educated in Cleveland. Like her husband, Elroy J. Kulas, she was very interested in music. She was a founding member and longtime trustee of the Cleveland Music School Settlement.
In 1940, Mrs. Kulas, always an advocate for young music students, bought season tickets at Severance Hall to be used by students from the Conservatory of Music at Baldwin-Wallace College, and a year later for students from the Cleveland Institute of Music. Today, the Kulas Student Ticket Program provides tickets to nearly 20 Cleveland area colleges, universities and educational institutions.
Fynette and E.J. Kulas were members of the Church of Christ Scientist, which may have contributed to her interest in the science of music therapy. In the early 1950′s and under her guidance, the Kulas Foundation became a very early supporter of music therapy and shortly thereafter helped establish the Department of Music Therapy at Cleveland Music School Settlement. Mrs. Kulas also was instrumental in Foundation-sponsored programs for young conductors and composers, including James Levine and Louis Lane—future conductors of The Cleveland Orchestra.
The love that Mr. and Mrs. Kulas shared for music extended directly into their personal residences. In their beautiful home in Gates Mills they installed both a magnificent pipe organ, which Mrs. Kulas loved to play, and several stained glass windows depicting musical themes. In 1941, they bought the estate of Edward K. Bok near the famous Bok Singing Tower at Mountain Lake, Winter Haven, Florida.
Fynette Kulas died in the Women’s Hospital in Cleveland on September 25, 1957. She and E.J. are buried at Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.