“Gonzaga is an institution where the lessons of academia are taught, but more importantly, a place where young men learn the lesson and value of selfless service. Erik’s parents, family, and friends gave him the foundation of this lesson. Gonzaga provided the environment and mentors for this lesson to solidify and become a core part of Erik’s being.
“Mother Teresa said to 186 young men at a Gonzaga commencement the following, ‘The fruit of love is service. The fruit of service is peace. And, peace begins with a smile.’ I will never know the true extent to which Erik extended his love and service, but I know it was extended to family, friends, and strangers around the world. I guess that’s why he had such a big smile. Not a day goes by where I don’t visualize Erik’s smile.
“I am glad this scholarship fund affords the opportunity for another young man to learn the important lesson and value of selfless service at Gonzaga as Erik did.”
Steve Williams, Erik’s cousin and Gonzaga Class of 1988
“We were raised as siblings, not relatives or even cousins. We spent all of our lives together. We each had our place, our role; but without one, the team was not complete. Our parents instilled the values in us that created this crazy group of kids – ‘take care of one another, be kind and generous, be responsible.’ Erik loved Gonzaga because it embodied all that we had learned from our family. Erik loved the Navy because it gave him another team which he could embrace. And while Steve, Jen and I are always now amiss of one, we live each day honoring Erik in every positive action that we take. Knowing that this is how we can forever keep his ‘place’ alive and therefore we remain complete.
“We are grateful, beyond measure, for all that the community of Gonzaga has done for our family. We will never be able to give back as much as you have given us.”
Allison Cassin, Cousin of Erik Kristensen
“‘Dude, it’s Erik – I’m in Dusseldorf!’ It was 10:30 p.m. in Cocoa Beach, where my fellow lacrosse coaches and I were preparing Gonzaga’s squad for the 2005 season. I couldn’t believe Erik was calling me from Germany, but then again, he was always full of surprises. Erik said he was heading out to a few places but would be back for the Alumni Smoker in November. But before he left, he wanted to know how the team was looking and how we would fare during the season – always the fan of all things Gonzaga.
“I thank God for that phone call and for having had Erik as a friend. He modeled how to appreciate the gift of life and how to be positive and thoughtful. The Klassic and his scholarship fund will always stand for those qualities. I’ve met many people who show those attributes, but no one will ever live them better than Erik did. We miss you, Spider.”
Andrew Battaile, Gonzaga Class of 1990
“During the winter of 2005, I last spoke to Spider, who was gearing up for his deployment to Afghanistan. I was preparing to leave for Iraq, and we discussed how ready we were to tackle these new assignments. Spider was ready for the challenges he faced and was proud of the team he would be leading. If only I had known that would be our last communication, I would have taken more time to catch up and wish him the best.
“Our mutual friend Andrew Battaile emailed me in Iraq in early July 2005 after he was told about Spider. How shocked and saddened I was; how mad at the person/people who did this. The only solace I find is the knowledge that even if God had warned Spider before that mission about the outcome, Spider would have jumped on that helo anyway. He was where he wanted to be: in Afghanistan, serving his country, and leading those men to help his fellow SEALs.
“It is the purest example of selfless courage I know. For that, Spider will always be the best of us.”
Randy Stone, Gonzaga Class of 1990
“Working on the Erik Kristensen Klassic helps young deserving sons of active duty military parents obtain an opportunity to be a part of the Gonzaga ‘Men for Others’ experience. As a son of former active duty Air Force officer, I saw the financial struggles my parents lovingly endured to send my two brothers and me to Gonzaga. This scholarship fund will allow us to alleviate some of the financial burden for those parents who willingly sacrifice for our country.”
John Mastal, Gonzaga Class of 1989
“I think of Spider every day. The way he used to say certain things. Like instead of ‘outstanding,’ it was ‘out [pause] standing.’ You can tell I really like something if I use his pronunciation on ‘outstanding.’ I can tell I really like a girl, too, if I’m out with her and I start asking Spider for help. But that’s the best part — that Erik was so comfortable in his own skin, he didn’t need validation from others. Instead, he gave validation to others. And still does. When I covered high school sports in DC, I’d like certain schools a lot. But then I’d think, well, if I went there I wouldn’t have known Spider.
“I remember he said once that when he was out of the military he wanted to teach English and coach a sport at Gonzaga. I suggested lacrosse; no, he said. They have plenty of guys who know more about lacrosse than I do. I’d probably try and help coach swimming. That was Spider. Always willing to go where he was needed.”
Christian Swezey, Gonzaga Class of 1990
“Although I arrived here at Gonzaga fifteen years ago, too short a time to have known Erik when he walked its halls or wore the purple and white on the lacrosse and football fields, I feel as if I’ve known him for at least that long a time. The reason for that is the kind of love and loyalty he aroused in those who did know him. Those who have worked so hard to make The Klassic such an early success are examples of what I mean. They speak volumes about who he was and what he stood for. You see, Erik got as good as he gave: devotion to family, friends, alma mater and country.
“And what better way to help keep his spirit alive than to support the education of deserving young men from military families in their own quest to become ‘Men for Others’ here on Eye Street? These past fifteen years, I have also learned something about how well Gonzaga does that, and I can assure you that the funds raised from this event will go a long way toward aiding that mission. God bless you for joining in this effort!”
Rev. Allen P. Novotny, S.J., President, Gonzaga College High School, 1994-2010
“I was working on The Klassic when my daughter, Kelly, asked me what I was doing. I told her I was helping young men go to Gonzaga, because my friend Erik wanted me to help. She asked if that was my friend who ‘died at the war.’ I put her on my lap, and we talked about who Erik was and what he had done. We talked about Spider’s compassion, courage, enthusiasm, dedication and his goofy smile. We talked about how Erik was one of the most genuinely sincere people I had ever known. We talked about how Spider’s effort and sacrifice allowed us to live peacefully. The most important gift Erik has given me is the ability to express to my daughters how much love there is in the world, and how Erik expressed his love for them by protecting us. My daughters love a man they never had the chance to meet because The Klassic allows me to bring Spider’s memory to life.”
Mike Brodnik, Gonzaga Class of 1990
“The thing that always impressed me about Erik was his character. He had a huge heart (and not just because he was a big guy). I got to know Erik at a time when most young men are tempted to cultivate a phony image — trying hard to be cool, tough, clever or slick. Erik was the opposite. He was self-confident without being boastful; strong without being mean or menacing; smart without being a show-off. Erik made everyone around him better by providing an example of what it is to be a real man.”
Nick Schulz, Gonzaga Class of 1990
“I became friends with Erik in the late ’80s when Erik and I were among a handful of Gonzaga students from active duty military families. We knew first hand how difficult it can be for a military family to pay for a private school education, and we felt very lucky to be a part of the Gonzaga community and tradition. So I know this is a cause that mattered to Erik, and I am sure that he is proud of what we are accomplishing with The Erik Kristensen Eye Street Klassic. It is an honor to be a part of The Klassic, a great event that allows all of us to give a little back to Gonzaga and to remember Erik – a real American hero and a true ‘Man for Others’ – in a way that he would really appreciate.”
Tom Lynch, Gonzaga Class of 1989
“I did not know Erik well enough to call him a friend, although he was type of guy who treated everyone as a friend. In high school I was thinking about the person I hoped to be when I grew up. I was impressed that Erik was happy and content to be himself, and clearly that was enough.”
Jude Boyle, Gonzaga Class of 1992