J. Orin Edson was the quintessential entrepreneur. He cared deeply for his community and believed others should have the resources to pursue their entrepreneurial visions.
Edson built his first boat when he was just a kid. After a stint in the Army during the Korean War, Edson pursued his boating interest in his garage and started a small company that he eventually built up into Bayliner Marine Corp – the largest manufacturer of luxury boats in its time. He later acquired a majority interest in Westport Yachts, growing that into another successful yacht building company.
Edson, who died in 2019 at the age of 87, developed a luxury boat company based on his desire, talent, and keen entrepreneurial sense. He and his wife, Charlene, wanted other aspiring entrepreneurs to have similar opportunities for success. In 2005, Edson gave ASU $5.4 million to create the Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative. The gift formed an endowment that gives ASU students the opportunity to pursue their creative and business goals by providing seed money to help them along in their entrepreneurial quests. The awards are for any type of business — ranging from high-tech for-profit startups to nonprofit public-sector ventures. The endowed initiative was designed to spur innovative thought and entrepreneurial spirit in ASU students by providing them the means to pursue their business ideas.
In 2018, the Edson Training and Development Network was established from a new endowed gift from the Edsons to accelerate innovative talent and increase capacity to train Edson entrepreneurs in greater numbers through an expanded training and development network with an enhanced curriculum to augment and complement academic curriculum. The on-demand offerings increase accessibility and support all innovators at any stage and regardless of ASU affiliation.
In September 2020, ASU President Michael M. Crow announced that the university would honor Edson in perpetuity with the establishment of the J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute at Arizona State University. The naming recognized the Edsons’ longstanding commitment to further entrepreneurship support at ASU and included an additional endowed gift, enabling ASU to expand its portfolio of entrepreneurial programs and initiatives in perpetuity.
We are honored to be part of the Edsons’ legacy and longstanding commitment to further entrepreneurship support at ASU.