FCA is celebrating a life well lived, after the passing of one of its former presidents, John Erickson, who died March 18 at the age of 92.
“Today we pray for John Erickson’s family, friends and former players and coaches, as they now navigate life without this strong, godly influence,” said FCA President and CEO Shane Williamson. “The Fellowship of Christian Athletes will be forever grateful to all that John Erickson brought to the ministry as the president for 16 years. His servant leadership, vision, innovative thinking and tireless dedication and work ethic forever changed the course of the ministry he loved. He impacted countless coaches and athletes by sharing Christ though his personal prayers and deep friendships. He served as a model to the coaching world with his commitment and dedication to his players and fellow coaches over a successful career, in which he continually strived to glorify God. Hebrews 11 lays out some of the ‘Heroes of the Faith,’ the true ‘Hall of Champions,’ of which John Erickson is the newest member.”
In 1958, Erickson attended his first FCA national conference in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. From there, the basketball coach became actively involved in the organization as the dean of numerous FCA events, a member of both the National Advisory Board and the Wisconsin FCABoard of Directors and the organizer of an FCA adult Bible study in his home.
In November 1972, Erickson became FCA's fourth executive director and served a 16-year term before retiring in 1988. Noted for his innovative leadership, Erickson restructured the Board of Trustees, established FCA's women’s ministry and junior high and inner-city programs, and spearheaded the construction of the national headquarters in Kansas City, which was dedicated in 1979 during FCA's 25th anniversary.
A standout basketball and tennis athlete at Rockford East (Illinois) High School, Erickson became the first basketball player at Beloit College to score more than 1,000 points in a career. He graduated in 1949 as a Little All-American and a nine-time letter-winner. Erickson also competed in three NCAA tennis tournaments.
After coaching high school basketball at Beloit (Wisconsin) High School and Stevens Points (Wisconsin) High School, Erickson was drafted in 1953 and served two years in the U.S. Army. From 1955 to 1958, he was the head basketball coach at Lake Forest College. He was an assistant coach at the University of Wisconsin-Madison during the 1958-59 season before taking over for Bud Foster. In 1962, Erickson’s team finished second in the Big Ten Conference and he was named Midwest College Coach of the Year.
Erickson left Wisconsin in 1968 to become the general manager of the NBA expansion Milwaukee Bucks. In his three years there, he acquired Kareem Abdul Jabbar and helped build the 1971 NBA championship team.
Following his time at FCA, Erickson stepped into the role as director of basketball for the Big Eight Conference. He later was promoted to be the assistant commissioner.
In 1968, Erickson was inducted into Beloit College’s Hall of Honor. In 1980, he was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame. In 1989, Erickson was also inducted into the Lake Forest College Hall of Fame, and in 2002, he was inducted into FCA's Hall of Champions.
Erickson’s beloved wife, Polly, a well-known golfer, preceded him in death in 2018. They were married for 61 years and had three daughters, Lew Ellen, Kelly and Kim, and three grandchildren. The Ericksons had resided in Tulsa since 2016. He will be buried in Kansas City.