Erin Vaughn Bolden ’04 is corporate counsel for THOR Industries, the world’s largest manufacturer of recreational vehicles and motorcoaches.
After earning her undergraduate degree at Washington University in St. Louis and a J.D. at the Northwestern University School of Law, she began her legal career clerking for a federal judge before working at Shook, Hardy, & Bacon, LLP, for six years.
She and her husband also own a Nothing Bundt Cakes franchise in the Michiana area.
When you think back to Morgan Park Academy, what comes to mind?
I remember first that it was a melting pot that really taught me to appreciate the differences between people and taught me to be a thoughtful global citizen — not just accepting that people are different, but really welcoming it.
How did MPA prepare you for success?
There was a holistic approach, I think, to developing me as a student.
You’re going to get a world-class education if you go to MPA; it certainly prepared me for college, with teachers encouraging independent thinking and not just feeding you an answer or teaching to the test.
But beyond that, MPA also had a huge impact on developing my character. The teachers, the students — everybody was from different walks of life. You know, everybody wants to do diversity and inclusion stuff now, but it was prevalent at MPA back when I was there 20 years ago.
“Everybody wants to do diversity and inclusion now, but it was prevalent at MPA when I was there 20 years ago. It was just awesome. That’s what set MPA apart.”
We had things like International Day and Project Week, where you’re exposing students to different cultures through food, travel, and civic projects. It was just awesome. You cannot get those experiences just anywhere.
That’s what set MPA apart and prepared me to go, as I like to say, from the backyard barbecue to the boardroom. You can put me anywhere and, partly because of my experience at MPA, I can navigate it.
Which teachers made the biggest impact on you?
One would have to be Tom Drahozal. I still have flashbacks of our weekly quizzes on current events — and actually, I did well on them. It may have been the only test I enjoyed taking. It kept me engaged in current events and I have him to thank for my practice of constantly checking news outlets and doing my part to stay informed. I really enjoyed my history classes with Mr. Drahozal. He should have pushed me to be a poli-sci major!
Another teacher I appreciated is Barry Kritzberg. I took a special seminar class with him, and he pushed me to pursue an opportunity with what is now the Chicago History Museum. They were developing an exhibition about teenagers in Chicago and it turned out to be a huge undertaking that won the museum prestigious awards.
The president of the Chicago Historical Society at the time was Lonnie Bunch, who became the founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture and now is Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. He is really passionate about creating a space for teens to enjoy and learn in museums.
As a teenager, I got to learn the inner workings of curating an exhibition and I was able to take oral histories of famous Chicagoans and everyday Chicagoans. Kanye West was one of the people that I interviewed for the exhibition. I have Mr. Kritzberg to thank for that. It was a life-changing event in many ways.
What are your fondest memories of MPA?
The academics were great, but athletics were a key part of my experience as well. I benefited from the discipline that it takes to be an athlete and also the camaraderie among my teammates when I was playing on the tennis team or in my short stint in track. That’s where I developed a lot of close relationships with the coaches and other students.
Our athletics program was fantastic. Oh my gosh, I loved going to the games. I didn’t play basketball, but I really loved the energy in the gym during a game. That’s where some of my fondest memories are from.
Overall, I appreciate how Morgan Park Academy expanded my development beyond just academics. I appreciate that it teaches the whole person; there’s something for the whole student in every avenue.