In fact, Cameron had heard of the legend of Charlie long before he met the man. Both attended the same graduate program at Oregon State University and held the same fellowship ten years apart. A method of collecting student fees for events and student organizations that Cameron used in those days had actually been created by Charlie in one of his first jobs in higher education years earlier.
There are many such connections, like a winding epic of a story, that Charlie made through his life. “So much serendipity,” Cameron says—much of it driven by Charlie’s desire to make connections everywhere he went. When Cameron arrived on campus, he says Charlie took him under his wing professionally and personally, and brought him to watch high school football in Los Gatos every Friday.
By the time Cameron made his way to SCU, Charlie, his wife Sue, and their daughter, Amy, were established in the community.
Santa Clara seemed like a perfect fit for the family from the moment they arrived in the early 1980s. The first two years they spent in the Bay Area, the Ereksons lived just off campus, which helped embed them in the local community. Amy would ride her bike to the Mission and watch weddings from the back row on the weekends.
Here, Charlie found a place where the values—forming adults of competence, conscience, and compassion—fit his own Methodist upbringing and Texas Christian University education.
“That is part of why he stayed so long,” daughter Amy Erekson Varga MA ’06 says. “Santa Clara is a place where the institution’s values reflected his.”
“Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child” was Charlie’s motto in life, both at work, home, and the blurry space in-between, Amy says. Growing up, she was always welcomed in her father’s office. She’d often find students there, too. Charlie set out to teach each of those Broncos and Amy that they could handle what came their way.
“He wanted them to know that they could walk life’s path on their own, they should trust themselves, and they are empowered to face life’s challenges,” she says.
That’s how Ed Ryan, the vice provost, first met Charlie. As a student worker in Benson, he noticed that Charlie went out of his way to meet student workers and to share stories with little slices of life lessons. Decades later, at Charlie’s retirement party in 2014, three current students recalled similar memories.