Dr. Fred W. Erikson Fund for Women’s Leadership to Support Women in the Law

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The Dr. Fred W. Erikson Fund for Women’s Leadership at Albany Law School might be named after one person, but it is a testament to the entire family he and his wife, Phyllis Erikson ’80, created. 
The namesake fund is one of five newly endowed scholarship funds at Albany Law School. Fred passed away in May 2023 and the fund illustrates a commitment to supporting women in the law (especially mothers).

Phyliss and Fred
Phyllis and Fred Erikson are pictured at an open house for the Albany Law Review in 2022.

The Eriksons had five children and many more grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Their son Frederik Frank Erikson ’99, daughter Dana Salazar ’05, grandson Erik Piorkowski ’22, and granddaughter Emmalynn Salazar Blake ’23 all followed suit and earned law degrees from Albany Law School.
The couple met as youngsters and started out as good friends. When Fred enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1958, he and Phyllis began a near-daily correspondence. Those letters bloomed into a 62-year marriage.
“He happened to send me a Christmas card one year, I didn’t return it but when I heard he was leaving to go into the Marine Corps, I sent him a note to say ‘Bon Voyage.’ He had already left and his mother sent it to him down at Camp Lejeune. He answered and said, you know it’s quite grim here, mail call is the one thing I look forward to,” she said. 

Education has been a guiding force for the Eriksons and something they’ve passed down to their children and grandchildren. The scholarship, Phyllis says, is a small homage to his love of learning and generosity and support for others looking to gain knowledge and grow. 
Fred is remembered as many things, a scholar, a teacher, a handyman, a Mets fan, a husband, a father, a grandfather and great-grandfather, to name a few. 

Phyllis and Fred Erikson with members of the Albany Law Review

Fred’s Ph.D. pursuits brought the couple and their three oldest children north from their Staten Island home in the late 1960s. He taught at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and earned his Ph.D. in psycholinguistics there. 
Two more children later, when the youngest child was in kindergarten, Phyllis decided it was time to pursue her longtime dream of going to law school. She had worked as a teacher for years, which she loved, but becoming an attorney was always a dream.
Enrolling in the late 1970s, her class had 25 percent women, and she was the second oldest student in her class. A few women had families, some were in their late 20s looking to change careers. But most of them had little support from their spouses and families, with the general spousal support level ranging from tolerance to indifference, she said. 
Phyllis, though, had unwavering support from Fred, she said. The scholarship, she says, is also a way to honor Fred’s enthusiastic support of her career pursuits—an act that was ahead of its time.
“He was thrilled that I was following my dream and going to law school.  Fred had earned his MA in Middle English literature, and he enjoyed helping me read and make sense of some of the old law cases  that dated back to the Middle Ages. He was a forever student, a scholar, and he studied his entire life. People would ask me, how do you do it? How are you in law school with five kids? I’d point to Fred and say, there’s my secret weapon. He helped me study, reviewed my work, quizzed me on terms, everything,” she said. “I was the luckiest woman in the world. Whatever I wanted, he was not only okay with it, he was actively supportive.”
“I remember I was reading some case and I thought, ‘Wow, I really like this, this is really cool. I love this. I'm so glad I'm doing this.’ And I remember talking to the younger students and when they found out I had a family. One of them said to me. ‘Oh, my God! You have a home to take care of, and kids and law school. When do you have time for yourself?’ My answer was that ‘This is my time for myself.’ I was doing it for me,” she said. 
After graduation she was recruited to work at General Electric, where she worked from 1980 to 1996 in various counsel roles, the last being with GE Plastics in Europe. 
“I worked in the international contracts for the power plants in India, Thailand, Japan, all over. Traveled a lot to Europe. I worked with our manufacturing associates over there,” she said.
The family visited frequently during her the four-year assignment, a time Fred lovingly called “the Eriksons’ European vacation.” That time was a mere precursor to the traveling the couple did later on, many times with the entire family—20 or 30 of them—in tow. 
She left GE to work as general counsel for 10 years at J.M. Huber Corporation, a manufacturer of materials for consumer and industry applications. 
She retired in 2006 and traveled the world with Fred. A few years later she joined her daughter Dana in establishing the law firm,  Salazar and Erikson LLP .  

Related: Mother and Daughter, Both Sixth in Their Classes, Team Up Later in Life