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June 9, 2001 Saturday, NORTH FINAL EDITION
SECTION: Obituaries; Pg. 18;
LENGTH: 400 words
HEADLINE: DON ERICKSON, 75;
Teacher led U.S. crusade for Burma
BYLINE: By Kevin Lynch, Tribune staff reporter.
For more than 20 years Don Erickson taught geography, history
and social studies at Calumet High School in Chicago during the day.
At night, on weekends and whenever he could find a free minute, he
was helping to change history half a world away.
Mr. Erickson, 75, of Chicago, who worked to curb human rights
violations in Burma by stopping the flow of U.S. corporate dollars into
the country, died of cancer Sunday, June 3, in Northwestern Memorial
Born in Chicago, Mr. Erickson grew up in St. Paul, Minn., and was an
army veteran of World War II.
He graduated from the University of Minnesota in the early 1950s and
began a teaching career that took him to schools in New York, Puerto
Rico and Chicago. In the early 1970s, he began teaching at Calumet
High School on the South Side. He retired in 1993.
"He really liked working with kids--especially the ones who didn't
grow up with all the goodies in life," said his brother, Robert. "He got
a tremendous amount of satisfaction out of that."
In 1988, Mr. Erickson began working for Synapse--a Chicago activist
group devoted to ending human rights violations in Third World countries.
In 1990, the massacre of pro-democracy student demonstrators by the
military regime that ruled Burma struck a chord with Mr. Erickson, and he
became the head of Synapse Project Burma.
Using small teams of volunteers, he tried to persuade U.S. companies
doing business in Burma to withdraw.
"Every cent those corporations paid was going into the coffers of this
military government that was in turn spending 60 percent of that money
on arms to repress its own people," said Kryss Chupp, former
director of Synapse. "That really bothered Don."
Mr. Erickson focused first on Chicago-based Amoco. After years
of distributing leaflets, organizing protests and lobbying shareholders,
word came in 1994 that Amoco was pulling out of Burma.
"When he got the call, he kind of sat there with this half-smile on his
face, and said, 'Well, I guess I'm out of a job,' " Chupp said. "He didn't
show a lot of emotion, but that smile said it all."
Despite his joking remark, Mr. Erickson continued to work on Synapse
Project Burma, pressuring other companies to pull out of the country until
the time of his death.
Other survivors include another brother, Willard. Funeral services will be
private, and arrangements for a memorial service are pending.