In 1996, Gordon “Gordy” Erickson was, at age 40, a new senior vice president at Walmart, and his director asked him to recruit college students to intern at Walmart. The headquarters were in Bentonville, Ark., it was January, and the temperature was in the teens. He was not an alumnus of the University of Arizona, but, looking at the Walmart-approved list of universities, the University practically radiated warmth to him, and he enjoyed visiting Tucson, so the decision of where to recruit was easy.
Gordy immediately fell in love with the University of Arizona campus and the energy of its diverse student body. Walmart had no formal hiring program, but, recognizing the potential of the talented, ambitious students in the CALS Retailing program, he created Walmart’s internship program and hired many graduates over the next decade.
In 2007, the Home Depot recruited Gordy to be their Senior VP for Merchandising. One of his first priorities was creating an internship program with the University as a primary feeder. He became more involved with the Terry J. Lundgren Center for Retailing, serving on their partners board and even helping with hiring searches.
“I had nothing but great experiences there,” Gordy said. “The program was awesome and the people always took the time to talk with me and keep me involved.”
When he retired from Home Depot in 2015, Gordy considered funding an endowed scholarship. He remembered working with a CALS student who had supported herself and raised her younger sister while she was attending the University. Remembering her made his choice clear.
“It was easy to say yes,” he recalled.
The Gordon Erickson Endowment for Student Support funds Retailing students who demonstrate financial need and who are First Generation college students, who are working, and/or who are supporting a family.
Gordy, who is enjoying semi-retirement as the proprietor of Pop’s Garage Fabrication, said he loves to read the heartfelt messages of gratitude his scholarship recipients send him, and his only regret was that he did not set up the endowments sooner.
“There are moments in time, when you can be a person of influence to make a difference in people’s lives,” he said. “I’m so glad I could be one.”