4-H Emerald Clover Society

Arlon E. Elser

Class Year: 2008

County: Hillsdale

Title: Former Program Director, W.K. Kellogg Foundation Vice Chairman, Whitestone Keep, LLC

“4-H was a ‘beginning’ for me. Adult leaders helped me see and pursue opportunities that I had not known. Options and a variety of potential futures became realistic goals.”

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Arlon Elser’s career has been a testament to “making the best better” in academia and the non-profit world. A member of Hillsdale County’s Litchfield Livestock 4-H Club and subsequent Korean War veteran, Elser earned his bachelor‘s degree, graduating magna cum laude, and Ph. D. from Michigan State University. Between 1964 and 1975, he held a variety of professorships at Western Illinois University and the University of Pittsburgh. Elser spent the next 18 years as a program director for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, a globally-recognized philanthropic organization located in Battle Creek. Following his tenure at the Kellogg Foundation, Elser served as a senior financial strategist for Lincoln Investment Planning and later as the chairman and president of the Willard G. and Jessie M. Pierce Foundation, a human services organization dedicated to improving the quality of life in Barry County. Currently the vice-chairman of Whitestone Keep, LLC, Elser is a lifetime member of the Society of the Sigma Xi and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Other affiliations include membership in the American Council on Education, the American Institute of Biological Sciences, Battle Creek’s Kiwanis Club and United Way chapter and MSU’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Alumni Association. In 1990, he was honored with the Harry S. Truman Award as an individual outside the field of education who has had a major, positive impact on community colleges. Elser and his wife, Shirley, have been donors to the Michigan 4-H Foundation and MSU, having created the Arlon E. & Shirley A. Elser Endowed Scholarship for undergraduate students in the MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.