UW Legend Dick Erickson Dies At Age 65
July 26, 2001
SEATTLE - Washington rowing legend Dick Erickson, who rowed on the Hall of Fame 1958 eight-oared crew and also coached the Husky varsity from 1968 to 1987, died at his home inMarysville, Wash., last night, July 25, at the age of 65.
No further details of Erickson's passing are as yet available. Funeral arrangements will beannounced as soon as they are known.
'It is difficult to put into words how very special Dick was,' Barbara Hedges, the UW'sdirector of intercollegiate athletics, said. 'His contributions to the department over 38 yearswere immeasurable. He truly touched the lives of everyone in the department.
'Dick certainly deserves a great deal of credit for the outstanding reputation of Washingtonrowing,' Hedges continued. 'The success experienced under his leadership set the tone forthe current achievements of Washington rowing. It is inconceivable to think of thisdepartment without Dick's presence. I and the other staff members in the department willmiss him greatly.'
In 1984, Erickson was elected to the Husky Hall of Fame as a rower on the 1958 crew. In1994, he was inducted to the Hall of Fame as a coach. As a rower, Erickson was a memberof a UW varsity eight crew that traveled to England for the 1958 Henley Royal Regatta,where the Huskies fell to the Leningrad Trud Rowing Club.
The Huskies, coached by Husky Hall of Famer Al Ulbrickson, then challenged theLeningrad boat to a rematch and the UW crew earned revenge by beating the Soviets inMoscow. That race, broadcast by Keith Jackson on KOMO Radio, is believed to be thefirst sporting event broadcast to the West from behind the 'Iron Curtain.'
After coaching the Husky freshmen for four years, Erickson was named head rowingcoach in 1968. In 20 years as head coach, Erickson led the Huskies to 15 Pacific CoastRowing Championships and a national championship in 1984. In 1977, his crew won theGrand Challenge Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta. That Husky crew went on to compete atthe Nile Invitational Regatta in Cairo, Egypt.
Erickson was named the Pac-10 rowing coach of the year three times and was a member ofthe U.S. Olympic Rowing Committee from 1972-75. In 1975, Erickson was instrumentalin the creation of the Husky women's varsity rowing team.
'Dick was the consummate Husky,' said Bob Ernst, the men's rowing coach who coachedthe women's team before taking over for Erickson in 1987. 'He loved the University ofWashington. He probably would have worked for free just because he loved the place.
'His contribution to the rowing program at Washington is incredible,' Ernst said. 'He keptthe program thriving and on the map. Of all the things he did, he is certainly the championof the women's program. The concept we have today of Washington rowing as oneprogram -- the men's and women's crew together -- is something Dick deserves the creditfor. Every rower has the same opportunity to reach his potential. That's absolutely uniquein intercollegiate sports, not to mention rowing.'
'When women's sports were coming around, he looked at all our resources and said todivide them equally among all the rowers,' said Husky women's coach Jan Harville, whorowed at Washington from 1970-73 and has led the Huskies to three of the last five NCAAtitles. 'There were no differences between the men and women. That's why we have beenso successful. It's part of our tradition and why we are so successful now.'
Since retiring from coaching after the 1987 season, Erickson served as the facilitiesmanager for the UW Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, where he was in charge of theday-to-day operations of the various Husky athletic facilities. He was also a regulartelevision commentator for the Windermere Cup/Opening Day races on the Montlake Cuteach spring.
Erickson is one of only four men with a bronze plaque in the Conibear Shellhouse, home toHusky rowing. He was presented with the honor in a ceremony this past spring at theannual Class Day Regatta. Husky Hall of Famers Hiram Conibear, George Pocock andUlbrickson are the only other men so honored. One of the Huskies' current rowing shellsis also named after Erickson.
'Another huge contribution he made was Opening Day,' said Ernst. 'He was thecornerstone of having rowing be a part of the Opening Day festivities. It has become one ofthe biggest and best regattas in the world, and that was all Dick's idea. I feel like I'm theluckiest guy in the world to have come here and worked with him. He was a make-it-happen guy -- always positive, a can-do guy.'
'It's always sad to see someone so great a part of your life leave,' said Harville. 'DickErickson was what I knew about Husky rowing. He had a big impact on the sport ofrowing and not just at Washington. You could go anywhere in the country and peoplewould ask, 'How's Dick?'
'Dick taught us all what was important about rowing, how it's important to our lives, howto promote it and how to help others see why we're all so excited about it,' Harville said.'He didn't confine his interest in rowing to just the guys he was coaching. He wantedeveryone to share in his love of the sport.'
Erickson, who was born in Arlington, Wash., on December 29, 1935, graduated fromArlington High School in 1954. He received a bachelor's degree in physical education fromthe University of Washington in 1958 and master's in education administration fromHarvard in 1964.
At Arlington High, Erickson earned letters in football, basketball, track and tennis beforeattending the UW, never having rowed before coming out for the team as a freshman. Herowed in the number two seat on the first freshman crew before stroking the junior varsityboat in 1956. That boat won the junior varsity national championship. As a junior andsenior, he rowed number two for the varsity.
Erickson is survived by his wife, Irma, and their three sons: Alan, Jeff and Jon.