Volume LVIIMay 2010Number 2

A Modern-Day Renaissance Man

Renaissance Man: noun a person who has wide interests and is an expert in several areas (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Kenton E. McElhattan: Entrepreneur, engineer, airman, instructor, author, tree farmer, theologian, Mason. Also husband of Florence (for 64 years!), father of two, grandfather of seven and great-grandfather of six.

One might consider the above definitions synonymous.

A member of Edenburg Lodge No. 550, in his hometown of Knox, Pa., since 1946, Bro. McElhattan was Coroneted a 33º Mason in September 2000. K.E., as many of his friends call him, considers Freemasonry "a wonderful organization, nonreligious, nonsectarian, that makes good men better - a value I've held all my life."

Bro. McElhattan became interested in Freemasonry while serving as an Air Force flight engineer on a B-24 Liberator during European combat missions during World War II. The bomber pilot was a Freemason, "a prince of a guy," K.E. recalls. Upon his discharge, K.E. noticed other quality men in his hometown were members and eventually asked his neighbor about the fraternity. He said, "Ken, I've been waiting for you to ask me that question for a number of years." K.E. replied, "I didn't know you had to ask."

...Which is one of many reasons why Bro. McElhattan believes the 21st Century Masonic Renaissance is "absolutely crucial for the survival of Freemasonry." "People think it's a secret organization, which it's not," he said. "Too many Masons go through the first three degrees or even through the chairs and don't tell their wives a thing about what's going on, and that's not right. Opening up the installation ceremonies to women and families is one of the greatest things we could do to help people understand Freemasonry."

He envies the Grand Master's commitment, admitting he would have been much more active in Freemasonry had he not spent most of his life traveling the world for business in the mining industry, another of his life's passions. He is responsible for several mining machinery designs and methods patents, and advised miners and mine owners across the globe on how to make life underground safer. He also taught a course in Mining Methods at Pennsylvania State College for more than a decade.

When most men his age were preparing for retirement, K.E. took on a whole new challenge. As Chairman, President & CEO of National Mine Service Company since 1970, K.E. offered to purchase one of the company's less profitable subsidiaries, a research division formed to develop gas monitors for all industries. In 1984, K.E. and his son, Bro. Kent D. McElhattan, Poage Lodge No. 325, Askland, Ky., saw it as an opportunity to save the jobs of 32 people, and at the same time to prove that an organization could be successful by putting employees first, ahead of stockholders and even customers.

"Florence deserves more credit than me in my success as a businessman, father and as a Master Mason. I strongly believe that even a 'dummy' can succeed if he has a caring and loving wife supporting him."

K.E. and Kent co-founded Industrial Scientific Corporation (ISC), headquartered in Oakdale, Pa., and began independent operations in January 1985, with K.E. as its chairman and Kent running the day-to-day operations as president and CEO. They invested in their most important asset - their staff - providing the very best tools to conduct research and engineering, which led to patented technologies and state-of-the-art designs. The company's products became known as the most rugged and dependable in the world, thus providing customers with the very best quality and service.

The McElhattans point to the Bible as the foundation of their corporate business philosophy, and believe it's the cornerstone to the company's success. So much so, that they were willing to sacrifice income rather than compromise their Christian beliefs. The company went public on Wall Street in 1993; however, when, six years later, stock market analysts denounced the company's philosophy as intolerable, the McElhattans repurchased all outstanding public stock at a huge financial loss and took their company private again. Perhaps Dr. R. Leslie Holmes, a pastor and K.E.'s close personal friend, describes ISC best in his article, "Where the Golden Rule Matters More than the Gold."

Dr. Holmes wrote: "ISC today has over 800 employees around the globe, with operations in Europe, Australia, Canada, China, Netherlands, Singapore, the Persian Gulf and many others. It is the world's leading supplier of gas detection services and monitoring systems and the international leader in safety data analytics. In its quest to protect the environment and the quality of human health, the organization's vision is to eliminate death in the workplace by the end of the century."

Bro. K.E. has a lot to be proud of, yet his humility speaks louder than the long list of accomplishments adorning his resume. He feels blessed that his family is healthy and flourishing. He's proud of his daughter, Elaine, and his many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Jan. 25, 2010, marked ISC's 25th Anniversary. At the start of the New Year, Bro. Kent passed the executive baton to K.E.'s grandson, Justin, who was appointed president and CEO of the company, allowing Kent to replace K.E. as chairman of the board. Another grandson, Joshua, is the company's director of business development. The company is in good hands.

Mining expertise is not the only legacy K.E. has built. He has also published some of his thoughts, stories and research findings, including:

"Our Line," a Celtic Scots-Irish Lineage Narrative, 1987
"Christmas Kittens," a short story, 1988
"Tree Guide," Mt. Lebanon Nature Conservancy, 1991
"Hurry Up Son!" Searching for Divine Truth, 2003 (All the proceeds from this book are donated to the 32º Masonic Learning Center in New Castle, Pa. to support youth with dyslexia)
"Biblical Subjects in 'Hurry Up Son,'" an essay, 2006

While unlikely to slow down soon, Bro. K.E. is looking forward to spending more time at his Lake Latonka cottage woodshop, tree farm in Clarion County, and meaningful moments with family.

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