Art Van Elslander Receives Honorary Doctorate from Northwood University

(l-r): Dr. Kristin Stehouwer, executive vice president, chief academic officer and chief operating officer of Northwood University; Dr. Keith A. Pretty, Northwood University President & CEO; Art Van Elslander; Albert Zehnder, vice chair of Northwood University Board of Trustees; and Daniel DeVos, chair of Northwood University Board of Trustees.

Detroit retail furniture pioneer Art Van Elslander recently received notable recognition for his professional, philanthropic and civic contributions from Northwood University.

MIDLAND, MI – Detroit retail furniture pioneer Art Van Elslander recently received notable recognition for his professional, philanthropic and civic contributions from Northwood University. The Midland, Mich.-based University conveyed an honorary doctorate of laws degree on Van Elslander, founder and chairman of Art Van Furniture, on Friday, Aug. 2, as part of its annual Bay Harbor event at the Bay Harbor Yacht Club in Bay Harbor, Mich.

Van Elslander founded Art Van Furniture in 1959 in Detroit, Mich., with the philosophy of providing the community with quality furniture at great prices with high standards of customer service. Art Van Furniture employs more than 2,500 people and also runs Art Van PureSleep stores and Art Van World of Floors. It is the Midwest’s largest furniture retailer and the largest independent furniture retailer in the United States. The company was named “2009 Furniture Retailer of the Year” by Furniture Today magazine.

According to Northwood University President and CEO Dr. Keith A. Pretty, Van Elslander’s decades-long business and civic leadership make him an icon of the “American Dream.”

“Art’s truly one of this state’s and nation’s great entrepreneurs,” stated Pretty. “Starting with just a single store, he grew a company that dominates the Michigan market more than any other furniture retailer in any other state, and he did it all while giving back to the very communities that patronized his business.

“His service to the community is as renowned as his service to the industry,” Pretty continued. “Van Elslander’s vision and generosity have given rise to some of our state’s most important charitable causes, including The Van Elslander Cancer Center at St. John Hospital in Detroit, Van Elslander Family Center at Saint Vincent de Paul in Detroit and the Art Van Million Dollar Charity Challenge, which supports more than 150 Michigan charities.”

Van Elslander continuously contributes to the community through many charities and events, such as America’s Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit, The Art Van Santa Parade in Grand Rapids, Forgotten Harvest and Focus Hope.

Van Elslander has been honored through the years for his body of work including the Ernst & Young Lifetime Achievement Award–Entrepreneur of the Year Program,  the Lifetime Achievement Award Arab American and Chaldean Council, the Detroit News Michiganian of the Year plus his induction into the American Furniture Hall of Fame.


Northwood University is committed to the most personal attention to prepare students for success in their careers and in their communities; it promotes critical thinking skills, personal effectiveness, and the importance of ethics, individual freedom and responsibility.

Private, nonprofit, and accredited, Northwood University specializes in managerial and entrepreneurial education at three full-service, residential campuses located in southern Florida, mid-Michigan and northern Texas. Adult Degree Programs are available in seven states with many course delivery options including online. The DeVos Graduate School offers accelerated, evening and weekend programming in Michigan, Texas and Florida. The Alden B. Dow Center for Creativity and Enterprise provides system-wide expertise in family enterprise, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and new business development. International education is offered through study abroad and in Program Centers in China (Changchun and Wuxi), Malaysia and Sri Lanka.