(Bloomberg) — Bob Craves, a co-founding officer of Costco Wholesale Corp. in 1983 who later helped send thousands of young people in the U.S. to college, has died. He was 72.

Craves died of cancer on Nov. 5, according to the College Success Foundation, the Issaquah, Washington-based group that he established in 2000. He retired last year.

Along with Costco co-founders Jim Sinegal and Jeffrey Brotman, Craves expanded the retailer from a single store in Seattle into the largest U.S. warehouse-club chain, selling food, apparel, hardware, toys and sporting goods. It was the first company to grow to $3 billion in sales in less than six years, according to Costco’s website. Sales for the year ended in August were $112.6 billion.

Craves spent 17 years at the retailer, also based in Issaquah, a Seattle suburb, serving as senior vice president of membership, marketing and community outreach.

After leaving Costco, he set up the foundation to enable disadvantaged youth in Washington State and, later, in Washington, D.C., to gain access to higher education. During his 13 years as chief executive officer, he raised $600 million for the group.

“Bob was a leader and giant, and will be remembered by the thousands of young people whose life trajectories he influenced with the gift of education,” the foundation said in a statement on its website.

By the end of 2013, it had awarded more than 12,000 scholarships, and almost 4,000 recipients had earned bachelor’s degrees, with thousands more still in college.

Foundation Roots

Craves co-founded the College Success Foundation with Ann Ramsay-Jenkins, a fellow member of former Washington State Governor Gary Locke’s 2020 Commission on the Future of Post- Secondary Education in 1998. The foundation’s scholarship holders are mostly high-achieving students from low-income families and others without equal access to a college education.

Robert Edward Craves was born on July 10, 1942, in Bay City, Michigan, to Robert Craves and the former Edith Mish, according to Marquis Who’s Who. The oldest of five children, he left home at age 13 to join a seminary with the intention of becoming a Catholic priest, according to an article in the Seattle Times.

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.

From 1967 to 1971, he was a national sales manager at Wickes Corp. in Saginaw, Michigan, before moving to San Francisco to work as president of Welsh & Bresee Inc. from 1972 to 1975. He later became a vice president at Builders Emporium in Los Angeles, according to Marquis Who’s Who.

Joining Startup

Having worked with Sinegal at hardware stores in California, Craves joined Costco in 1983.

From 1995 to 2005, Craves was chairman of Washington State’s Communities in Schools program, overseeing its development in various school districts. From 1997 to 2005, he was chairman of the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Board, supervising budgets and financial aid for students.

A collector of rare and antique automobiles, Craves is survived by his wife Gerri, whom he married in 1973; their daughter, Stacie; and two grandchildren, Siena and Sabrina, according to an obituary on the website of Harvey Funeral Home in Seattle.

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