ASU alumnus shares why life-long learning is important to success

By

Rachel Bunning

Thanks to his education at Arizona State University, alumnus Jack Erickson always knew he could learn from any experience. His drive to appreciate the world led him to participate and develop different careers in his lifetime.

In 1967, Jack Erickson received his Bachelor of Arts in Russian from the School of International Letters and Cultures in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. After attending a smaller university his first two years of college, he knew ASU could offer him many opportunities.

“My parents had indicated to me that I could go to any school as long as my grades were good and I had a reason to go there,” Erickson said. “I had good grades. I was vice president of my fraternity. I was dating a cheerleader. I had a lot of good friends and I just said, ‘Gee whiz, if I can do this at a small school, what could I do at a big school?’ So, I transferred.”

During his time at the university, Erickson juggled many responsibilities. His classes kept him busy, but so did his extracurricular activities such as being on the International Interfraternity Council and a role as the co-chairman of "Greek Week" his senior year.

“The first year was a challenge because the school was so much bigger and I didn’t know anybody, but I just kept studying and meeting people, quality people,” Erickson said. “I also had a couple of really good professors. It was a good experience.”

One professor at the university convinced Erickson to change his major from pre-med to Russian. After taking a class with Snaford Couch, a specialist in foreign language pedagogy, Erickson was motivated to join the Russian program.

“He inspired me. I learned so much under him,” Erickson said. “He was a great inspiration.”

After graduation, Erickson had multiple careers in different fields. He was a speech writer for three different U.S. senators, then became a senior editor at a large industrial trade association. After six years of editing, he started his own publishing company for books on the craft brewing industry, which eventually led him into the financial industry.

“I wrote a financial newsletter for when the industry was really starting to grow significantly,” Erickson said. “I mean it’s huge now, you can see that definitely in Arizona. I did the financial newsletter and then that lead me to the finance industry. So, I worked for a national broker in Silicon Valley and I managed executives’ money. I was the money manager.”

He attributes his liberal arts background for the skills needed to succeed in all of careers. 

“If you go back to liberal arts and you study a variety of subject and topics, you learn how to do research and apply it,” Erickson said. “I learned how to talk to people, ask them questions, get information and then prepare a financial plan for them. So, all of the skills I learned in liberal arts, I applied to my career.”

Erickson began writing while he developed his careers and published a few stories and novels before he retired. Yet his biggest inspiration struck him while he and his wife were travelling after retirement. While he was in a train station in Milan, Erickson had the idea to write a thriller series based in the city.

“I had this incredible lightning bolt idea and so I went back,” Erickson said. “I go back to Milan every year now. My writing about Milan, writing a thriller series, has really sent me to do some very deep research on all aspects of Italy and it is just one of the most fascinating countries in the world. I mean there’s thousands of years of history.”

Erickson has published seven short mysteries and six novels. His seventh novel and third book in the Milan thriller series will be published in December 2017.

“It’s a passion I have,” Erickson said. “I love doing it. I’m fulfilling almost, not quite a dream, but a passion I have to keep learning every day and Italy is just such a fascinating country.”

Erickson encourages students to seek out people and experiences that can teach them skills and lessons they want to learn. He says curiosity is what continues to inspire him to succeed.

“I want to know as much as I can about so many topics,” Erickson said. “Which, again, is the curse of anyone in liberal arts.”