Ron Erickson is a big believer in the value of communication. Throughout his 11-year tenure on the Board of Trustees (BOT), three as chair, he sought to establish strong connections among CWU faculty, staff, and students, as well as members of the Ellensburg community.
“There are three things I am most proud of accomplishing during my time on the board,” Erickson explained. “The first is listening to the Faculty Senate at an open meeting and hearing what I called, ‘disquietude,’ and asking to meet with them ahead of trustees’ meetings in order to learn more.
“Second was raising questions about the nature of Central’s general education requirements, which became a catalyst for a thorough review of those requirements. Third, I am proud of commencing meetings between the trustees and leaders in the Ellensburg community.”
At a recent BOT meeting, current chair Robert Nellams, who served alongside Erickson for the past three years, described him as a gifted and talented consensus builder with deep ties to the community.
“Ron grew up in the Ellensburg community and graduated from Ellensburg High School and Central Washington University,” Nellams said. “His family has been in the Kittitas Valley for nearly 150 years, so he has been able to provide valuable insights and historical perspectives to the board.”
Erickson, who earned a BA in history from Central in 1966, said he wanted to serve on the CWU Board of Trustees because of his great affection for the university and the community.
“I have deep roots in the Ellensburg area, going back to 1876,” he said. “I felt that I could make a contribution to the governance of the university as a consequence of my long-term experience as an attorney and businessman, with a deep commitment to public education.”
Erickson’s father, Ed K. Erickson, was a lifelong educator, who served as a professor and chair of the Department of Education at Central for many years. He spent much of his childhood on the pioneer farm owned by his mother, Ayleen Frederick Erickson, which her family had homesteaded in the Kittitas Valley in 1876.
Following his graduation from Central, Erickson earned an MA in American studies from the University of Wyoming and a law degree from the University of California, Davis.
Erickson was appointed to the board in October 2010 by former Washington Governor Christine Gregoire and served as chair from 2018-2021.
With more than 35 years of experience as an attorney and entrepreneur, including leading a number of global technology enterprises, Erickson said his initial goal was to simply contribute to making the university a well-run organization that adhered to its mission of providing a quality, student-centered education. But over time, after learning more about the university’s inner workings, he began to focus on accessibility and affordability, and developing a robust general education curriculum.
Erickson said his favorite memories about his time on the board involve having the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends.
“There is no substitute for the wonderful collegial environment that develops among trustees over time,” he said. “And, I was also able to meet many faculty and staff as well. I looked forward to our trustee meetings and seeing friends.”
Erickson said one thing he felt he never quite achieved was developing a better connection between the Central of today and its historic legacy.
“Left undone, in my mind, is building into the decision-making process today an awareness of the historic context,” he said. “There are long-term strategic initiatives that the university should address. They require the long view … which extends beyond the terms of trustees, university presidents, and senior management of the university. They involve fundamental questions about the role that a residency university and in situ learning have in an increasingly virtual world.”
As for the future, Erickson said he plans to continue building Know Labs, Inc., a company pioneering non-invasive medical diagnostics technology, which he founded several years ago. When COVID-19 restrictions ease, he also hopes to travel with his wife, Dia, and spend more time with his children and grandchildren.
“I will always remain connected to Central although my engagement will now be more ad hoc and less formal.”