Staying on Track with Life’s Priorities

PROVO, Utah – Dec 20, 2021 – Forty-five years after earning an MBA from the BYU Marriott School of Business, George Erickson is retired from a successful career in the railroad industry. Erickson’s dynamic career took him to 48 different states and a variety of prestigious positions, but as he reflects on his life, he says what he is most proud of has nothing to do with his work.

After graduating from high school in his hometown of Citrus Heights, California, Erickson started working on the railroad when he was a brakeman for the Southern Pacific Transportation Company. His time at Southern Pacific was interrupted, however, when he was drafted into the United States Army in 1964 during the Vietnam War. Erickson was assigned to a military hospital in Nurnberg, Germany, where he performed administrative duties for a surgeon.

Upon his release from active duty in 1966, Erickson planned to work in hospital administration, inspired by his time in Germany. With this goal in mind, he completed a bachelor’s degree in health science and biology from Sacramento State College in 1972. He then earned an MBA from BYU Marriott in 1976.

However, after finishing his MBA, Erickson could not pull himself away from the railroads. “I always loved my work on trains,” he explains. “The job was different every day, no matter what I did.” Additionally, Erickson wanted to take advantage of his 15 years of railroading experience, as he had resumed his work with Southern Pacific during weekends to pay for school.

Despite deviating from his original career goal, Erickson says his MBA was still valuable, especially when he transitioned to the administrative side of railroads. While he has held every possible position on a train—from brakeman to conductor—the second half of his career was spent serving in a variety of business roles, including as vice president of transportation services for Alaska Railroad and general manager for Amtrak.

As a corporate leader, Erickson used the skills from his MBA to effectively manage others. “Learning organizational behavior during my MBA was one of the best things for my career,” he says. “When I could use my background to develop the best people I could, I was successful and worked well with others.”

As Erickson finished his career in 2017, he was grateful for his professional accomplishments and ongoing passion for the railroading industry. But he was also grateful for his experiences beyond his job, which is what he will remember most in retirement. “I’m proud that I raised a family and enjoyed my time with them,” he explains. “I am successful from a business standpoint, but what matters the most to me is that I raised my family as best as I could.”

Erickson and his wife Bethanie—whose encouragement he says is the reason he succeeded at BYU Marriott—have six children and 23 grandchildren. Now that he is retired, he spends as much time with them as possible. When he’s not at home in Folsom, California, Erickson loves to take his family to the scenic locations he visited during his working days.

Erickson also spends time writing his life history. An avid keeper of journals throughout his life, he is compiling his favorite memories into one collection. True to his priority of family, he mentions that most of his fondest experiences are those where his family was by his side. “I’m 47 pages into my own story and have written almost nothing about my work,” he observes. While Erickson is not filling the pages with his railroading journeys, he says he is remembering his personal, meant to be, track through life.

1976 BYU Marriott MBA alumnus George Erickson. Photo courtesy of George Erickson.
1976 BYU Marriott MBA alumnus George Erickson. Photo courtesy of George Erickson.
Erickson in 1980 on the longest railroad trip of his career, travelling from Colton, California, to Saint Louis, Missouri. Photo courtesy of George Erickson.
Erickson in 1980 on the longest railroad trip of his career, travelling from Colton, California, to Saint Louis, Missouri. Photo courtesy of George Erickson.
Erickson (center, in white) with his wife Bethanie and most of their family. He says Bethanie supported him throughout his schooling and career. Photo courtesy of George Erickson.
Erickson (center, in white) with his wife Bethanie and most of their family. He says Bethanie supported him throughout his schooling and career. Photo courtesy of George Erickson.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Mike Miller