Rich Erickson Receives Varsity "I" Achievement Award

Former Illini safety Rich Erickson has been named the 2012 recipient of the Varsity "I" Achievement Award.
Former Illini safety Rich Erickson has been named the 2012 recipient of the Varsity "I" Achievement Award.

Sept. 19, 2012

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - In line with tradition, the University of Illinois' Varsity "I" Association presents the 2012 Achievement Award, the highest honor bestowed upon a past letterwinner for post-graduate accomplishments, to Richard Erickson. Rich was a three-year letterwinner as a safety for the Illini football team from 1965-67. He graduated with a degree in civil engineering from Illinois in 1969.

After beginning his career as a project engineer for W.M. Lyles Construction and O'Shaughnessy Construction, Rich moved to W.E. O'Neil Construction Company in the same capacity in 1973. He advanced steadily in the company, including overseeing the start-up of a new regional company, W.E. O'Neil Construction of California, in 1985. In March 2003, Rich was promoted to his current position as Chief Executive Officer & President of O'Neil Industries, Incorporated. Today, O'Neil is an award-winning and nationally ranked industry leader with annual revenues of $600 million.

Rich lives in Los Angeles, Calif. He has continued Illini student-athletes through the I FUND and by establishing the Richard J. Erickson Scholarship Fund. Rich has a daughter, Claire.

Terry Hite David

Varsity "I" also presents the 2012 Merit Award to Terry Hite David in recognition of her pioneering service to Fighting Illini athletics. Terry helped break several barriers at the University of Illinois and beyond. She enrolled in 1968 as part of the University of Illinois' "Project 500" program, which was a first step toward the goal of equal educational opportunities for all. She and her fellow classmates fought through discrimination and helped pave the way for future generations.

While earning her bachelor's degree in physical education, Terry also competed on the Illinois volleyball team prior to the start of varsity women's athletics in 1974. The dedication showed by Terry and other female student-athletes helped lead to the 1972 Title IX legislation.

After graduation, she spent two years in the Virgin Islands, where she helped develop a volleyball program and played on their national team. In 1975, Terry returned to pursue a master's degree and ultimately became the University of Illinois' first African-American head coach when she took over the Illini volleyball program. She coached for two years, compiling a record of 40-28, before heading back to the Virgin Islands after she finished her master's degree in education. She resumed coaching and then moved into elementary school administration before retiring as principal in 2000.

The struggle for equal opportunity continues today, but the barriers that Terry helped overcome broke new ground for the countless Illini who have followed in her footsteps.

Along with the Achievement & Merit Awards, the Varsity "I" Association also inducts honorary members for their long-standing loyalty, service and contributions to Illinois athletics. The 2012 Honorary "I" recipients are Michael & Jane Bartlett of Mahomet, Ill.; Steve & Cleo D'Arcy of Urbana, Ill.; and John & Mary Ellen Penicook of La Grange, Ill.

The Varsity "I" weekend events begin on Friday, Sept. 21, at the Stone Creek Golf Club, with tee times beginning at 10 a.m. A celebration for the award winners will be held on Friday evening at 6:30 p.m. in the Colonnades Club at Memorial Stadium. The festivities continue Saturday, Sept. 22, with the Varsity "I" Tailgate Tent Party at 4:30 p.m., followed by the kick-off of the Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech football game at 7 p.m. A special presentation for the 2012 Varsity "I" honorees during the game will wrap up the weekend.