Educator, bishop; b. Cleveland, Ohio, Feb. 4, 1904, one of six children of George and Josephine Messer Elwell; d. Columbus, Ohio, Feb. 16, 1973. He grew up in Holy Name Parish, Cleveland, where he attended grade and high school.
After attaining his bachelor's degree at John Carroll University, Elwell attended St. Mary Seminary in Cleveland and then went to the University of Innsbruck, Austria, where he was ordained on March 17, 1929.
From 1929 to 1933, Elwell served as assistant pastor at St. Cecilia Parish in Cleveland. He was then appointed assistant superintendent of diocesan school in Cleveland and in 1934 received his master's degree from Western Reserve University. In 1938, he received his doctorate from Harvard. His doctoral dissertation, "Catholic Religious Education in France 1750–1850," was published in book form by Harvard's Graduate School of Education.
In 1938, Elwell was named director of high schools and academies in Cleveland and in 1946 was appointed diocesan school superintendent. He was named a right reverend monsignor in 1949 and a prothonotary apostolic in 1960. At this time, he also received an honorary doctorate from John Carroll University.
Elwell was named auxiliary bishop of Cleveland on Nov. 7, 1962, and was consecrated in St. John Cathedral on December 21. In February 1966 he was named rector of St. John's Cathedral. In November of that year he was named vicar for Catholic education in Cleveland.
Over the years as superintendent of schools, his range of performance was wide indeed as the following would indicate: he returned the schools to the phonics method of teaching reading; he developed a planned acceleration program for the gifted grade school students; he brought more male teachers into the grade schools; he furthered advanced teacher training through the formation of associations for high school teachers; he greatly expanded the diocesan school board, bringing in numerous professionals, including religious and laymen; he developed numerous textbooks and series, which have spread to many dioceses; he established a diocesan radio station to broadcast to the school system's classrooms; he brought about the $22 million high school building program; he expanded the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine program.
On May 29, 1968, Elwell was named the Eighth Ordinary of the Diocese of Columbus. He stated that in Columbus his objective would be to complete already well-established programs. In four years he brought to fruition several religious, educational, charitable, and social programs.