Growing up in Alton Acres, Dr. Eric Luster never imagined that his actions as a fifth-grader might lead him to success. Reflecting on those yesterdays, the 1998 Alton High School graduate is unwavering in his certainty that the mentors he sought out back then played a key role in where he is now.
A doctorate of business administration in technology entrepreneurship from Walden University was conferred upon Luster on Aug. 31, adding to his already impressive list of undergraduate and advanced degrees in network management, computer information systems and information technology, along with his years of serving in the Army.
Today, Luster lives with his wife, Lacheris, and their three children. He is a healthcare technology entrepreneur as CEO of Movement Interactive in Phoenix and an adjunct professor at Gateway Community College, working with economically disadvantaged students through the YearUp program. He is also leading renovation and new construction efforts on a 150-unit senior living apartment development, Waymark Gardens.
What was the path you traveled to get to where you are today?
I had grown up in Alton Acres. I worked hard to stay in school, to finish school, and I graduated early. I attended Lewis and Clark (Community College) for one semester, then decided to sign up for the military. The Army sent me to Arizona and really put me on this path.
How did you end up in the field that you now work in?
After a six-year tenure in the Army, and another five years working my way up in the IT industry, I decided to pursue an advanced degree in computer science. One of the courses I took as a part of the computer science degree program required me to watch and study Little League Football. As I watched, I took particular notice of a young quarterback whom the coaches were consistently pushing to get back in the game after being hit hard a few times while in play on the field. It was that moment that sparked my interest in studying and researching how to detect traumatic brain injuries in youth sports. In January 2014, I founded Movement Interactive. I now have three patents pending related to the technology my company has developed, the product is in pilot, and I am recognized as a subject matter expert for the Department of Homeland Security.
From Alton Acres to today, what advice would you give to youths in the Riverbend who might be struggling?
What I would say is this: the honors chemistry class I took in high school had a much greater ROI (return on investment) than being homecoming king. It’s great to be popular, but the bigger ROI was to make those connections with people that I wouldn’t have otherwise.
I would encourage young people to look to family as one source, but to look for outside-of-the-box mentors as well.
Who were some of your mentors?
Early on, my mother Gerlynn Luster was my most impactful mentor, as were my aunt and uncle, Joan and Rev. Stanley Henderson Sr.
And back in fifth grade, there was a Principia College student by the name of Becky Poole (now Becky Cole) who was tutoring students after school, including me. She would pick us up on weekends and take us to the Elsah campus.
Today, my in-laws have a great influence. I have learned much about being an entrepreneur from my father-in-law, Winston Wallace, a small business owner who has consulted with companies such as Shell and Phillips 66. My mother-in-law, Tamarah Wallace, has also been a great mentor to me, as has my wife's father, Michael Woodard.
I have further made a vital connection with a soccer coach back home that has become an integral part of what I’m doing now. Lindsay Kennedy-Eversmeyer, assistant soccer coach at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, also owns the women’s semi-professional team known as Fire & Ice Soccer Club.