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 in Marysville, Wash., last night, July 25, at the age of 65.
No further details of Erickson's passing are as yet available. Funeral arrangements will be announced as soon as they are known.
"It is difficult to put into words how very special Dick was," Barbara Hedges, the UW's director of intercollegiate athletics, said. "His contributions to the department over 38 years were immeasurable. He truly touched the lives of everyone in the department.
"Dick certainly deserves a great deal of credit for the outstanding reputation of Washington rowing," Hedges continued. "The success experienced under his leadership set the tone for the current achievements of Washington rowing. It is inconceivable to think of this department without Dick's presence. I and the other staff members in the department will miss him greatly."
In 1984, Erickson was elected to the Husky Hall of Fame as a rower on the 1958 crew. In 1994, he was inducted to the Hall of Fame as a coach. As a rower, Erickson was a member of 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 the Leningrad boat to a rematch and the UW crew earned revenge by beating the Soviets in Moscow. That race, broadcast by Keith Jackson on KOMO Radio, is believed to be the first sporting event broadcast to the West from behind the "Iron Curtain."
After coaching the Husky freshmen for four years, Erickson was named head rowing coach in 1968. In 20 years as head coach, Erickson led the Huskies to 15 Pacific Coast Rowing Championships and a national championship in 1984. In 1977, his crew won the Grand Challenge Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta. That Husky crew went on to compete at the Nile Invitational Regatta in Cairo, Egypt.
Erickson was named the Pac-10 rowing coach of the year three times and was a member of the U.S. Olympic Rowing Committee from 1972-75. In 1975, Erickson was instrumental in the creation of the Husky women's varsity rowing team.
"Dick was the consummate Husky," said Bob Ernst, the men's rowing coach who coached the women's team before taking over for Erickson in 1987. "He loved the University of Washington. 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 kept the program thriving and on the map. Of all the things he did, he is certainly the champion of the women's program. The concept we have today of Washington rowing as one program -- the men's and women's crew together -- is something Dick deserves the credit for. Every rower has the same opportunity to reach his potential. That's absolutely unique in intercollegiate sports, not to mention rowing."
"When women's sports were coming around, he looked at all our resources and said to divide them equally among all the rowers," said Husky women's coach Jan Harville, who rowed at Washington from 1970-73 and has led the Huskies to three of the last five NCAA titles. "There were no differences between the men and women. That's why we have been so 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 facilities manager for the UW Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, where he was in charge of the day-to-day operations of the various Husky athletic facilities. He was also a regular television commentator for the Windermere Cup/Opening Day races on the Montlake Cut each spring.
Erickson is one of only four men with a bronze plaque in the Conibear Shellhouse, home to Husky rowing. He was presented with the honor in a ceremony this past spring at the annual Class Day Regatta. Husky Hall of Famers Hiram Conibear, George Pocock and Ulbrickson are the only other men so honored. One of the Huskies' current rowing shells is also named after Erickson.
"Another huge contribution he made was Opening Day," said Ernst. "He was the cornerstone of having rowing be a part of the Opening Day festivities. It has become one of the biggest and best regattas in the world, and that was all Dick's idea. I feel like I'm the luckiest 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. "Dick Erickson was what I knew about Husky rowing. He had a big impact on the sport of rowing and not just at Washington. You could go anywhere in the country and people would ask, 'How's Dick?'
"Dick taught us all what was important about rowing, how it's important to our lives, how to 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 wanted everyone to share in his love of the sport."
Erickson, who was born in Arlington, Wash., on December 29, 1935, graduated from Arlington High School in 1954. He received a bachelor's degree in physical education from the University of Washington in 1958 and master's in education administration from Harvard in 1964.
At Arlington High, Erickson earned letters in football, basketball, track and tennis before attending the UW, never having rowed before coming out for the team as a freshman. He rowed in the number two seat on the first freshman crew before stroking the junior varsity boat in 1956. That boat won the junior varsity national championship. As a junior and senior, he rowed number two for the varsity.
Erickson is survived by his wife, Irma, and their three sons: Alan, Jeff and Jon.