While some education advocates emphasize tenets and theories, Erik Frost has long preferred a more hands-on approach, be it in the classroom, at community events, or under the hood of a car.
“It sure has been fun,” said the longtime automotive instructor, reflecting on his lengthy, multifaceted career as a teacher, school administrator, and in recent years as a volunteer for the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara. “If I had to do it all over again, I’m not sure I would do anything differently.”
A Scholarship Foundation board member since 2010, Erik has been an avuncular fixture at Foundation events for almost 20 years. At the organization’s annual scholarship awards ceremonies in Santa Barbara and Santa Maria, he can be counted on to contribute in ways large and small – everything from setting up tables and arranging for balloons to guiding students and their parents to their seats.
Event organizers and community members alike prize his good-natured enthusiasm.
“The wonderful thing about Erik, on top of being a stalwart champion for education, is his pleasant manner,” said Scholarship Foundation Board Chair Christie Glanville. “Whatever we ask of him, he invariably responds with a smile and a reassuring comment or two. A disagreeable encounter with Erik Frost is about as common as cross-country skiing in Santa Maria. He is a tremendous ambassador for our organization, and for the cause of increasing access to postsecondary education generally.”
Erik’s interest in helping students grew out of his own experiences as an undergraduate in the mid-1960s. A standout football player throughout high school and college, he received a scholarship to play defensive tackle for the Cal Poly Mustangs his junior and senior years. At his playing peak, he tipped the scales at a burly 302 pounds.
In addition to a few broken bones, he gained a new appreciation for the value of community-based scholarships.
“I received a scholarship from the local Elks Lodge, and had work-study. It was my job to polish the floor of the engineering building with a buffing machine,” said Erik, now sporting a considerably trimmer 6-foot-4-inch frame. “It dawned on me then how vitally important financial aid is in determining educational outcomes. I mean, look what it did for me? I’ve never forgotten that.”
Shortly after he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in industrial technology, a counselor suggested he try teaching architectural drafting, and he soon found himself leading classes in automotive repair and, for a time, art at Canoga Park High School in Los Angeles. (He had minored in both at Cal Poly.)
“For as long as I can remember, I’ve always enjoyed working on cars. I built and raced them as a teenager growing up in the San Fernando Valley, and for a brief time in my early 20s even owned my own gas station. So teaching others automotive skills made perfect sense,” he said
His direction now established, Erik set out on what would become a 37-year odyssey as an educator. Following a succession of positions in the Venice area of Los Angeles and later Orange County, he made his way to Santa Ynez High School. Along the way, he trained as an administrator and picked up graduate degrees and credentials at UCLA, Pepperdine, and Cal Poly. At one point he directed summer cheerleading camps across the country.
Eventually named principal at Santa Ynez High, Erik went on to become vice principal at Santa Maria High before retiring in 2003.
That’s when the Scholarship Foundation came calling, first asking him to serve as a volunteer outreach coordinator, and later tasking him with helping to create the Foundation’s North County Advisory Committee. The group has since added a chapter in Lompoc.
“I knew all about the Scholarship Foundation from my time at Santa Ynez and Santa Maria high schools, and always admired its work in the community. I jumped at the opportunity to further its work in the north county,” said Erik.
“It’s hardly an exaggeration to say that Erik played a seminal role in our efforts to expand the Scholarship Foundation’s presence in northern Santa Barbara County,” said Foundation President and CEO Barbara Robertson. “Our current financial aid advising program in the area is a direct result of his earlier volunteer work. We are so fortunate to have him!”
Twice honored by the Association of California School Administrators, Erik was recognized along with his wife Judy in November 2019 for community service in Santa Maria. Both continue to serve as volunteer applicant interviewers for the Scholarship Foundation.
“Getting an education is the most important thing. It’s the key to a productive life with opportunities,” said Erik, seated beside his beloved black lab Nero. “I would urge anyone who feels the same way to support organizations like the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara. Donate, get involved. The community will be better for your involvement.”