A co-founding officer of Costco Wholesale Corporation in 1983, Bob Craves’ biggest impact was as a staunch higher education advocate who helped to send thousands of young people to college. He was the founder of the College Success Foundation, a Washington State-based organization established in 2000. That foundation’s scholarship holders are mostly high-achieving students from low-income families and others without equal access to a college education.
During his 13 years as chief executive officer, he raised $600 million and awarded more than 12,000 scholarships. When he passed in late 2014, Tricia Raikes — a member of the College Success Foundation’s board since its beginning — said, “He was so passionate and so committed and so capable of making things happen. He was able to get a lot of people on board.”
The same was true at Costco, where he and his co-founders expanded from a single store in Seattle, Wash., into the largest U.S. warehouse-club chain. It was the first company to grow to $3 billion in sales in less than six years and now has annual sales of more than $100 billion. Craves served as its senior vice president of membership, marketing and community outreach for 17 years before leaving to start the College Success Foundation.
When he originally left his hometown of Bay City, Mich., as a teen, his intention was to become a Catholic priest. Craves earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy in 1965 and a master’s in international studies in 1967 from Catholic University in Washington, D.C., and initially returned to Michigan to begin a career in sales. In 1972 he moved to the West Coast and made a world of difference.