10 January 2023 • Entrepreneurship Opell’s Hits and Misses Become Student Lessons

A new Bozzuto Center exhibit serves as a learning tool for future entrepreneurs in tribute of Michael L. Opell ’59 and his notable career.

Ellen and Michael L. Opell '59 visit the Bozzuto Center for Entrepreneurship.

Ellen Levine Opell '60 and Michael L. Opell '59 visit the Bozzuto Center for Entrepreneurship.

Throughout his career, Michael L. Opell ’59 has dabbled in innumerable entrepreneurial ventures while holding senior management positions for powerhouse companies such as Hudson Paper, Bristol Myers, Philip Morris, Revlon and Max Factor. Opell also served as President of Emrad Associates LTD, eventually purchased Barry Martin, an over-the-counter reading glass company, and spent 30 years running a seasonal import business, Emrad Creations, in which he and his team designed holiday bears and other customized trinkets for 10 selling seasons each year.

Today, his story and plethora of experiences are teaching and inspiring a new generation of entrepreneurs through an exhibit at the Bozzuto Center for Entrepreneurship. In a project conducted by Madison Kaenzig de Denus ’22 under the direction of Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies Craig Talmage, various products designed and sold by Opell are on display and used in interactive lessons for students in the Entrepreneurial Studies Program.

The organization of the display includes one case exhibiting his failed products and one that showcases his successes – both serving as valuable learning tools. The drawers are full of memorabilia from his entrepreneurial journey/life. Students can learn more about each project, see sketches and mockups, and see real-world market research reports and old catalogs of his products. 

Kaenzig de Denus, who now serves as a recruitment support specialist in Admissions, says she is honored to have worked with Opell on the project. “Mr. Opell has provided me with a firsthand account of what it means to be an entrepreneur and a creative thinker who adapts to the world. I am thankful that he was so generous with his time, experiences and products that will allow for future entrepreneurs at HWS to learn from his success and failures,” she says. 

The Opell Exhibit

As an alum, Opell has provided significant support to HWS. The contributions of Michael and his wife Ellen Levine Opell '60 helped launch the Opell Family IdeaLab, a startup incubator program run through the Centennial Center that offers peer feedback, mentoring resources, structured workshops and funding support for new student ideas.

After launching the Entrepreneurial Endowed Student Project Fund, Michael and Ellen also spirited the Opell Challenge, which enabled the creation of the HWS Student Entrepreneurship Fund. Both initiatives support student entrepreneurs, from financing startups, advanced product development, product testing, business planning and initial investment.