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The long and rich relationship Carl Erickson, President and Co-Founder of Atomic Object, has with Grand Valley State University inspired him to launch a private fundraising campaign to help with the construction of the Mary Idema Pew Library and Learning Information Commons.
Erickson and his company’s relationship with Grand Valley dates back to his position as a professor in the Computer Science department. “For ten years, I was a professor at Grand Valley and I’m proud of the work I did there,” he said. He has always been amazed and inspired by the contributions Grand Valley makes to the community and the state.
Even after he took a leave of absence from teaching, Erickson would continue his involvement with the university. Atomic Object started in 2001 and today, nearly 50 percent of the employees hold a degree from Grand Valley. Erickson also participates in guest lectures and his company funds a scholarship in the Computer Science department. “It is a very rich relationship,” he said, “in terms of what Atomic Object gets out of it and what we do for the Computer Science department.”
Erickson’s appreciation for Grand Valley is evident in his motivation to include Atomic Object in the Pew Library campaign. Given his company’s connections with the university, he approached his employees with the hope they would see how they and the company have benefited from Grand Valley. In addition to employing many GVSU graduates, Erickson also had 40 interns in the time that Atomic Object has been open.
Quick to praise his employees, Erickson said, “I work with smart and creative people. I am happy to add a new word to describe the people I work with: generous.”
Erickson believes his company’s success in giving to the Pew Library campaign is a matter of education. “If you educate people about what Grand Valley State University does and how they might be able to consider helping, then people will listen to that story. If they think about it and understand it, then the right thing will happen,” he said. The right thing did happen. Atomic Object raised over $28,000 through their challenge for the library, scheduled to open in fall 2013.
“Grand Valley has been a critical component of starting to build my company. Not only that, I live in Grand Rapids and want to see West Michigan transition into the new economy. Grand Valley has been a huge supporter of the entrepreneurial community,” said Erickson. He firmly believes that Grand Valley’s community involvement and support is what sets the university apart from other state schools.
He said he gives because, “Grand Valley does a lot of things for the community. They provide an affordable, high quality education and their students tend to stay in Michigan. As an employer, it’s tough to find people with the right skills and Grand Valley’s investment in West Michigan is a critical component of the economic transition our state is going through. We need smart, educated young people coming into the workforce.”
Erickson credits the thriving business of Atomic Object to the rich connections he and his employees share with the university. They have turned that success into an investment for the future of Grand Valley. He said, “I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Grand Valley.”