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James E. "Ed" Stolze Jr. (Imperial Potentate)

Imperial Potentate Ed Stolze headshot

James E. “Ed” Stolze Jr. of Peoria, Arizona, is serving his 10th year as a member of the Boards of Directors for Shriners International and Shriners Children’s. He was elected Imperial Potentate, part of the 12-member body that helps govern the Shriners fraternity, during the Shriners 2023 Imperial Session held July 2–6 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

To James E. “Ed” Stolze, family is everything. That includes his Arizona family — where 289 residents of Phoenix are not only his neighbors but also his blood relatives — as well as his Shrine family. In both, the bonds are tight.

Ed was born in Phoenix, Arizona, and raised alongside dozens of cousins. He fondly remembers his aunts and uncles playing cards at his grandparents’ house every Saturday night. To this day, Ed and his family still play cards together every weekend, with games presided over by his aunts and uncles and their potluck style meals always featuring more desserts than entrees.

It’s this family bond that Ed wants to nurture in the fraternity.

Ed met his late wife Cheryl, in 1985, and they married in 1987. Both were in the military, and they moved often. Their two children were born in Virginia, and the family lived in places including Iceland; Hawaii; Phoenix, Arizona; Biloxi, Mississippi; and San Diego, California.

Stolze enlisted in the Navy as a computer technician and was promoted through the ranks to Chief Petty Officer. Selected for Officer Indoctrination School, he was commissioned as an Electronics Maintenance Officer. After more than 25 years in the Navy, he retired in 2002 as a Lieutenant Commander, while serving as the Electronics Maintenance Officer for the Pacific Fleet. He looked forward to having his family closer together upon his retirement.

For his second act, Ed served as the Chief Technology Officer for a large school district in Phoenix, retiring in 2017. In addition, he is a senior leadership consultant for a family-owned consulting company.

Ed’s Masonic journey began in Chesapeake, Virginia, where he was raised as a Master Mason of Doric Lodge #44 in 1992. Later, he became a charter member of Hunters Paradise Lodge #85, in Phoenix.

The “newest Noble” on the Joint Boards, Ed became a Shriner in 2005. His talent and dedication to the fraternity quickly led him into leadership. He served on the Divan of El Zaribah Shrine starting in 2009 and became Potentate in 2013. In 2014, with support from his wife and family, he started campaigning for election to the Imperial Divan.

Although he lost his first election, he continued his campaign efforts. Then tragedy struck. His wife Cheryl was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and passed away just 17 days later. Among her last wishes was a strong desire that Ed continue to run for Imperial office. She knew that it would be his Mason and Shrine family who would keep him going.

She was right. Ed says that as he was campaigning, there were times when he felt so lonely, in a room full of people. But in a room full of Shriners, he was no longer lonely. That’s what the Shrine family is all about.

Ed is proud to be here today, serving this great fraternity and fulfilling the promise he made to Cheryl. He’s grateful to everyone who helped him along the way, especially his children, Josh and Joey, and his best friend and partner JoLynn Dickins, who has supported him over the years and is generously and graciously serving with him as First Lady of Shriners International.

Shriners and Masons are his heroes, and this year Ed looks forward to serving and thanking the fraternal community.

Fraternities and Philanthropy

  • Master Mason, Doric Lodge #44, Chesapeake, Virginia, 1992
  • Charter member, Hunters Paradise Lodge #85, Phoenix, Arizona
  • Past Master, Northern Lights Masonic Military Lodge
  • Potentate, El Zaribah Shriners, 2013
  • Captain of the Temple Guard, Ritual Divan Member, and Founding Director and Member of Shrine Masonic 1st Degree Team
  • Treasurer, Western Shrine Association, 2013–2015
  • Member, Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite, Valley of Phoenix
  • Member, Arizona Chapter #1 RAM, Phoenix Council #4 R&SM, and Phoenix Commandery #3 Knights Templar
  • Honorary Legion of Honor, DeMolay International
  • Honorary Member, DeMolay International Supreme Council
  • Member, DeMolay King Solomon Honorary Chapter in Arizona
  • Member, CBCS West Gate Scottish Masters of St. Andrews
  • Emeritus member, Board of Governors of Shriners Children’s Southern California


  • Bachelor’s degree, Sociology, Excelsior College
  • Master’s degree, human relations and leadership, University of Oklahoma

Imperial Sir Ed Stolze

Meet Ed Stolze, Imperial Potentate, Shriners International 2023-2024
View Transcript

Kathy Stolze:

Ed is Ed.

He's always been kind. He's level-headed. He knows right from wrong and he practices it. He does for people. He's there when you need him, and I can depend on him. He's always helped the underdog. Ed is a person that you want as your friend, and I'm lucky enough to have him as my son.

Bill Garrard:

Ed inspires all of us by his enthusiasm for the fraternity, for the philanthropy, for Masonry in general, and his real feel for each of us as individuals and what we are to become. He instills that desire in you to become a part of it.

Hut Hutson:

Just one of the good old boys. Do anything for you. He's one of those guys that will pitch in and you don't have to ask, they just know what you need to do. Maybe they've done it, maybe it's just a new idea, but he's there to share that idea and help develop you as an individual, along with he's developing himself also. To me, that's the best quality of a leader.

Lindsey "Joey" Stolze:

My dad is intense in both his love and his kindness to other people. If he loves you, he's going to take care of you. If he sees something that he knows you'll like, he's buying it and giving it to you. He's just very generous and very loving with his time, and he is that way with people who are blood family or found family. It's something I really am proud of my dad for, is just seeing how much he takes care of those around him.

Josh Stolze:

My father has inspired me by really building communities that are focused on accomplishing really big goals. It's not just about the comradery, it's not just about helping kids; it's about finding both. It's about finding a community of people who want to accomplish the same thing that you do and just being able to participate together, knowing you're all here for the same reason.

Jackie Miller:

The thing I love about Ed is his honesty, his demeanor, his devotion to family. And of course in the Shrine, we are family.

Ed Stolze:

My family came from Eufaula, Oklahoma, in the early '20s. My great-grandparents had 12 kids. Those 12 family members came here and never left. And three of those 12 had eight kids a piece. My grandparents had eight.

Kathy Stolze:

First of all, he only weighed 4 pounds, 13 1/2 ounces when he was born. He had a bald head. He looked like a little old man.

Debbie Blocker:

I was seven when he was born, so he was my baby. He could charm anybody. I mean, he took string and sold it to the neighbors. He would pick their flowers and sell it back to them.

Ed Stolze:

From very early on, we would go over to grandpa and grandma's house on Friday evening. We'd stay there until Sunday. So my cousins were my best friends. We'd play while everybody else played cards and then we'd go home. We took care of each other. Potlucks and all that good stuff, we did that every weekend.

Servitude from very early on in my life was part of the family business. I grew up with that.

Bill Garrard:

Ed exemplifies servant leadership and that it's not about him, it's about the organization. It's about you as an individual and the organization. His first concern is for the fraternity, for Shrine. And all of his actions ever since we've ever known him have all been directed at that, without losing sight of who you are and what you mean to the group.

Ed Stolze:

So many people believe that servant leadership is getting out there and swabbing the decks along with everybody else, and that's leadership by example. Servant leadership truly is believing and honestly making decisions in the best interest of all the nobility, not in the best interest of yourself. And sometimes, that's a tough decision to make because sometimes you're going to have to make decisions that may not be in your best interest, but it's in the best interest of every Noble out there or every Noble Lady and family member that we have. And it truly is what we have to do every single day. If we continue to make decisions based upon our ego, based upon the human factor and the human nature, then it's always going to be the wrong decision.

Kathy Stolze:

Ed is a good leader because he loves people, he always has. His father was the same way, and he learned a lot from his father.

Ed Stolze:

The best thing about my parents was they raised us in such a way that we could talk about anything. They've been my best friends. Unfortunately, my dad's been gone for almost 25 years now, but mom's always been there.

A friend of mine joined the Navy. He needed a ride down to the recruiting station and the recruiter was good enough to grab me too. I joined at 19 years old as an enlisted computer tech.

I've worked for some of the greatest leaders that I've ever met, and that was something that was to my benefit. We all have some people that we may not respect or that we have issues with, but I worked for some great people. They taught me really quickly that their concern was about me, not about themselves. And that's where that servant leadership piece really started, was to figure out and to see their example of showing me how to do it the right way.

I had the opportunity to be a commanding officer twice of NATO satellite facilities, one in Virginia and one in Keflavik, Iceland, where I also had the opportunity to be a Master at Northern Lights Masonic Lodge in Keflavik, Iceland, which was an amazing experience.

Kathy Stolze:

I think Eddie did well in the Navy because he cared about people. And he just never stopped caring about people.

Debbie Blocker:

The reason why he excelled in the Navy is because he is not only a good leader, but he involves everybody that's below him. I think that's the environment he gets from our family, is that we take care of each other.

Ed Stolze:

I was the Assistant Director of Electronic Schools in Norfolk, Virginia. I had an education specialist that worked in the back that I knew was a Master Mason, so I was able to go to my first degree under him. I went through with an extremely tight, extremely dedicated group of individuals.

When they came to interview me at home, I wasn't the only one interviewed. Cheryl and the kids were interviewed as well. The best thing about it was when they talked to me, the last words they said to her was, "You know what? If he becomes a Master Mason, we just want you to know that if anything ever happens to him, you'll always be taken care of." That set everything in motion of the fact that it wasn't just me; it was us. And the fact that this is a family. And it truly has become the family that I've leaned on.

I was an instructor and in Sea School at Mare Island Combat Systems Technical Schools Command, and at the same time was running the Navy's West Coast Drill Team. In '85, '86, we had five females join the Drill Team, and there was a great opportunity. One of those just happened to be Cheryl. And so we met and started dating. We were supposed to get married here in Phoenix. My parents were setting everything up for us. It was becoming expensive, really time dependent and everything else. And my father actually called Cheryl and said, "I'll give you $2,000 cash if you'll elope at Las Vegas." And she said, "Go for it." And that's what ended up happening. We eloped to Las Vegas, and 25 people showed up. But anyway, we spent 18 years together active wise, raised two kids, Josh and Joey.

I got on the Divan in 2009. She was stationed in San Diego. I was actually here with the kids. She would come over every weekend and we'd go to all the events and everything else. She was as dedicated as I am. We started campaigning in March of 2014, and we went to different association meetings and so forth campaigning. She texted me saying that she was coughing up blood.

The day before Thanksgiving, we found out she had stage four pancreatic cancer. It had already spread to the liver, so they started her on chemo. She'd asked me, "What are you going to do with the campaign?" And I said, "We're going to fight this together. Don't worry about the campaign." She goes, "No." She said, "If you quit, the cancer wins." And that kept going through my mind, kept going through my mind, kept going through my mind. And several days later, she had a stroke and unfortunately passed away.

April Garrard:

Cheryl and Ed, we were all good friends, and during that time it was very difficult for all of us.

Leo Balthazor:

The Masons and the Shriners stepped up very quickly to support them. You could not help but want to help him because he's helped us so much along the way.

Ed Stolze:

My family saw what being a Mason was truly about. 110 motorcycles led us to the cemetery. Everybody held me up. And the fact that she made me promise to continue meant that I was going to continue to travel. And as I traveled, my brothers and sisters held me up. The Nobility, the Ladies, my brother Masons, they hold me up every day, and that truly showed me what this is all about. It's one thing to experience it as just a standard member, but it's a totally different thing when it truly hits you in your heart. Every single Noble and their Lady is my true hero because they're the ones that keep me alive and keep me going every day.

Kathy Stolze:

Besides his children and his family, that's number one, the Shrine.

Ed Stolze:

We truly are Shrine Masons. We can never forget that we were Masons first. And in fact, that's the start of that brotherhood piece. As Shriners come in with fraternity, philanthropy and family, it truly pulls everything together. To me, it's my life. It's my job. It's what I believe. To be honest with you, if I didn't have this every day, I'd have trouble getting out of bed every morning.

Jolynn came into my life; I'd been an Imperial Officer for two and a half years already, and we hit it off as good friends and one of my best friends. And she has stepped up to be the First Lady in helping us put together Women Impacting Care, one of the First Lady's project.

Jolynn Dickins:

Ed is like one of my best friends. I always tell him that I'm the sounding board, and we just work well together. We always have. We're going to do our best to help create a legacy.

Ed Stolze:

She believes in the mission and vision as much as I do. And it means so much to her to have the opportunity to meet all the Nobles, their Ladies, and to help us move things forward.

What I want everybody to know this year is the fact that this is not about me. It's not about the Imperial Divan. It's not about those of us with stars. This is about every Shriner, every Noble, every Lady, and every family member that we have. I've had the opportunity for seven years to be part of the International Development Committee. The fact that we've grown in Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico, Germany, Philippines, Lebanon, we've had the opportunity to really spread our wings across the world. Having Shriners in 67 different countries makes a difference. Taking care of kids in more than 160 countries every year, and that's because we're getting the word out. We're getting the word out because of our fraternity.

This is not about me. This is about the fraternity. This is about us having a great time, philanthropy, fraternity, and, more importantly, fellowship. We need to have fun with each other. We need to make sure that it's not just living and breathing the mission and the vision, but it's truly carrying it out there and showing the world what we're all about.

Bill Garrard:

Ed inspires all of us by his enthusiasm for the fraternity, for the philanthropy, for Masonry in general, and his real feel for each of us as individuals and what we are to become. He instills that desire in you to become a part of it.

Hut Hutson:

I expect him to do well. I expect him to do damn well because he's just that kind of guy. Extremely knowledgeable. So much so, sometimes it just pisses you off.

Leo Balthazor:

If you don't know him, it is to know that he is a strong Mason and he cares about Masonry and he cares about the Shrine a whole bunch.

James Jennings:

I don't know of a better leader. I really don't. Ed's a man who is full of compassion and he leads by example. No matter where he goes, he has the Shriner brand and the Shriners Hospitals for Children brand at the foremost of everything he does. He exemplifies Shriners International and Shriners Hospitals for Children.

Debbie Blocker:

I am so proud of him because he has worked with Shriners for so long and has grown so far from where he started.

Kathy Stolze:

I'm very proud of him. I'm proud of all my children, but I am proud of him.

Josh Stolze:

I'm very proud of my dad. He's dedicated a lot of his life to these different causes he believes in, and for the last almost two decades, that cause has been helping the Shrine help as many kids as possible.

Lindsey "Joey" Stolze:

I am absolutely proud of my dad. He has put so much of his time and effort in just helping other people and trying to make the world a better place, and in this case to make Shriners Hospitals reach more people that need it and get kids care, and he's so passionate about it. I think being in this role is the perfect place for him because he can do the most good essentially with it and wants to help children, and that's really why we're all here, is to help kids.


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