James D. Ericson is Retired Chairman of Northwestern Mutual, Milwaukee, the nation’s largest seller of individual life insurance. He retired from the company on July 31, 2001 but remained on the company’s Board of Trustees, the finance committee and the executive committee until 2006. He was elected president, effective January 1, 1990. He also served on the Board of Trustees of the company from 1989 until 2006. Ericson joined the company in 1965 as an attorney and over the years served as assistant to the president, Director of Benefits, General Counsel, Executive Vice President – Investments, and Senior Executive Vice President.
During each year of Ericson’s term the company was recognized by Fortune Magazine as the Most Admired Life Insurance Company in the United States and later in the World. During his period the Company had very rapid sustained growth. In 1996 the company became the largest seller of ordinary individual life insurance; in 1997 the largest payer of dividends to policy owners; in 1999 the sales force was rated number one in the entire country in any industry by Sales & Marketing Magazine (actually tied for number one with CISCO Systems).
During his career he was active in state and federal issues concerning the industry and in 1999 became the Chairman of the American Council of Life Insurance and spoke at several international conferences.
During his career he headed acquisition of Frank Russell Company (Russell Index), Mortgage Guarantee Insurance Corporation, and Robert W. Baird. He also served on their boards. In addition he served on the boards of Kohl’s Corporation; Consolidated Papers Inc.; the U.S. Advisory Board of Swiss Reinsurance, Zurich; and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago.
Ericson continues to serve as a director of Green Bay Packaging, the Marcus Corporation, and the Johnson Foundation at Wingspread.
Throughout his career Ericson served on numerous civic, charitable and educational boards.
In higher education he served on the boards of Lawrence University, Medical College of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, Milwaukee School of Engineering and the Wisconsin Historical Foundation. He has also been a member of most major Milwaukee arts boards—Milwaukee Art Museum, Public Museum, Center for the Performing Arts, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Florentine Opera and United Performing Arts Fund, as well as several smaller boards as member or advisor. He also served on the Chicago Lyric Opera Board for many years.
He served as Chairman of the United Way and reorganized the entire organization. He also chaired a very successful community fund drive. He was Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Milwaukee Redevelopment Corporation. He was also a member of several public education groups and of the Greater Milwaukee Committee.
In 1999 he was awarded the Wisconsin Business Leader of the Year from the Harvard Business School and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; in 2001 he was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Iowa; in 1998 the La Sociate Award from the state of Israel; in 1999 Distinguished Citizen Award from Boy Scouts of America; in 2000 the first Honorary Black Achiever Award and numerous awards from the National Conference of Christians and Jews (name now changed).
Ericson was born in Iowa in 1935. He earned two degrees from the State University of Iowa, Iowa City. He received his B.A. degree in history with distinction in 1958 and in that year was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He received his Juris Doctor degree, also with distinction, in 1962. He was a member of the Iowa Law Review. While earning his BA and JD degrees he worked for Sherwin Williams Co. as a credit manager and a salesman from 1955 to 1962. In 1979 he completed the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School.
In Sarasota he has served for several years on the board of Mote Marine Laboratory as Chairman of the Research Committee and as a member of the Executive Committee, the Development Committee, and the Education & Outreach Committee. In 2010 he joined the Ringling College of Art and Design and is a member of the Trusteeship Committee and the Campus Planning Committee. He serves as a trustee and advisor to the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast and works on public school education and Shark Tanks (advising and reviewing plans of new companies) with the Gulf Coast Community Foundation.
Jim is married to the former Patricia Ann Platten (Pati). Both became residents of Florida in 2011.
He has a daughter Linda (Kansas City, KS and Naples, FL) and a son Bob (St. Louis, MO). He has four grandchildren—Kristi (Chicago, IL), James (Princeton, NJ), Ellie (Morehead City, NC), and Will (Richmond, VA). He also has two great grandchildren—Declan and Dawson (Chicago, IL).