On Friday, Oct. 8 a tree was planted in honor of recently deceased Phil Erickson (1945-2010), who taught three to five classes a semester at SLCC since 1999 to 2010. The tree was planted by the Geoscience Department at the Taylorsville Redwood Campus on the northeast side of parking lot “G” near the Science and Industry Building. Erickson died from rectal cancer in early August. He was an adjunct instructor who taught geography courses and taught more than 2500 students during his time at SLCC.
The tree planting in Erickson’s honor drew a crowd of his family, friends, students, and colleagues. The tree planted in commemoration of Erickson is hoped to grow strong in tribute to the life he led. The tree represents the growth Erickson instilled in others through his encouragement of everyone to reach their maximum potential. The tree will forever remain on the Taylorsville Redwood Campus, as well as in the hearts, minds, and spirits of those who knew him best.
Since October serves as a month for cancer awareness, namely breast cancer, it was fitting to plant the tree in his honor during this month.
“He was diagnosed three years ago,” said Erickson’s son, Todd. “We used to have lunch once a week, he was a good parent, open to anything, and we traveled a lot with him to discover the world.”
Erickson is remembered as being a very outgoing person and a citizen of the world who loved to travel and learn from other cultures.
Adam Dastrup, Geosciences Coordinator, colleague and close friend said that he came up with the idea to plant a tree in Erickson’s honor at his wake.
“He was very informed about the environment, issues and recycling,” said Dastrup. “I miss his friendship…we used to have good conversations about what’s going on about the world and how to teach the students.”
In addition to planting a tree in his honor, Erickson’s friends, family and colleagues are also creating a scholarship in his name.
The day was emotionally laden for all who knew Erickson.
Colleague and friend Peter Iles remembers Erickson as, “An inspirational teacher, a true humanitarian and a great friend.”
Jane, Erickson’s wife of 37 years, found an inspiring quote that she wanted people to remember when they were planting the tree. The quote said, “Ancient culture believes that after we die, we move farther and farther away from the body we inhabited and even the world in which we believed but each time we serve life in some way, we are collected back to the physical plane.” This quote is from Good Grief by Deborah Morris Corryell.
“His intent was to inspire the world to meet different cultures and be tolerant. He wasn’t the perfect man but he was someone who loves sharing his knowledge at Salt Lake Community College. I miss him, the physical person and someone to talk to. He was coming from work with all the great stories that his students told him,” said Jane Erickson.
“He was by far the most interesting teacher I ever had since I’ve been at this college. He used to ask us which countries we would like to study and analyze and the next day he would bring magazines, photos and documents about that country. He is a great loss for Salt Lake Community College,” said Olivier Loua, former student of Erickson.