ABOUT E.J. & FYNETTE HILL KULAS
Elroy J. Kulas, known as “E.J.”, was born in Cleveland in 1880. He received his education in Cleveland Public Schools. At age 18, he commenced his working career in the freight department of the B & O Railroad. Three years later, 1901, E. J. Kulas joined the National Electric Lamp Association (NELA). NELA had been formed through a joint venture of three organizations: Franklin S. Terry’s Sunbeam Incandescent Lamp Company of Chicago, Burton G. Tremaine’s Fostoria Incandescent Lamp Company of Fostoria, Ohio and General Electric Company, (which had a secret participation as a 75% stockholder).
During World War I, “E.J.” left NELA and became one of the founders of Cuyahoga
Stamping & Machine Company, which made cartridge cases for the Allied Armies.
In 1917, Burton G. Tremaine and Franklin S. Terry, the co-founders of NELA, joined
others in purchasing the Peerless Automobile Company and soon thereafter engaged
E. J. Kulas as Sales Manager for that company.
In March 1923, “E.J.” left Peerless and formed the Midland Steel Products Company
by merging the Parish & Bingham Company of Cleveland with the Detroit Pressed
Steel Co. and the Parish Manufacturing Company of Detroit. Years later and after
“E.J.’s” death, Midland Steel Products Co. became the core of Midland-Ross Corp.
“E.J.” remained President of Midland Steel Products Co. from its founding until his
death in 1952. But in a highly unusual step, in 1925, he took on the additional
responsibility of being President of Otis Steel Co., a position he held until 1942 when Otis Steel was bought by Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation. During 1928, “E.J.” permitted Margaret Bourke-White to photograph steelmaking in the Otis Steel plant. Later he became so enthusiastic about her work that he published and distributed a small booklet of 16 of her pictures to the stockholders of Otis Steel Company. That booklet and those photographs caught the eye of Henry Luce, who engaged her for his new magazine, “Fortune.” Several years later, when forming Life Magazine, Henry Luce asked Margaret Bourke-White to become one of the four original staff photographers.
“E.J.’s” other business interests included directorship in the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railroad, the Pittsburgh & West Virginia Railroad and the North American Coal Company.
In addition to his business career, “E.J.” was very interested in music and served as a vice-president of the Musical Arts Association as well as a trustee of both the Northern Ohio Opera Association and the Cleveland Chamber Music Society. He 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 $50,000 to Baldwin-Wallace for its Conservatory of Music.
Elroy J. Kulas died in his home in Cleveland on May 12, 1952.
Fynette Hill Kulas was born, raised and educated in Cleveland. Like her husband, Elroy J. Kulas, she was very interested in music. For many years, Mrs. Kulas served the Cleveland Music School Settlement (C.M.S.S.) as a trustee. Mrs. Kulas was deeply interested in young students of music, and in 1940, she bought season tickets at Severance Hall to be used by students from the Conservatory of Music at Baldwin-Wallace College. A year later, the ticket program was expanded to include students from the Cleveland Institute of Music. This was the beginning of what has become the Kulas Student Ticket Program at 18 Cleveland area colleges, universities and institutions.
Fynette Kulas died in the Women’s Hospital in Cleveland on September 25, 1957.
Mr. and Mrs. Kulas were members of the Church of Christ Scientist, as was their
admired friend, Almeda Adams, the blind founder of the C.M.S.S. Possibly it was
that fond acquaintanceship that stimulated their interest in supporting the blind,
but their interest in C.M.S.S. came directly from their love for music, which was far
ranging. As an example, in the 1950′s and under Mrs. Kulas’ guidance, the foundation
became a very early supporter of music therapy and, in the mid 1960′s, helped
establish the Department of Music Therapy at the C.M.S.S. Also, while Mrs. Kulas
was active, the foundation sponsored programs for young conductors and
composers, which brought to the Cleveland Orchestra such future major
conductors as James Levine and Louis Lane.
The Kulas’ love 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.