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Edmund Manydeeds III enrolled at UW-Superior thinking he would study to become a probation and parole officer.
Then he landed an internship in the Douglas County Courthouse in Superior. In his free time, he sat in courtrooms and watched the proceedings. He got to know the local attorneys. The more he learned, the more he was impressed.
The experience changed his life. After graduating from UW-Superior in 1973, he decided to attend law school at UW-Madison. Since earning his law degree he has built a career as a respected attorney in Eau Claire, practicing law in a large portion of northern Wisconsin.
"Looking back, it's not so much the books but the exposure to people who introduce you to new ideas that gives you the college experience," he said. "That allows you to start thinking differently, to think more maturely, to realize there's more than one answer to a question. Those kinds of things make a good college experience, which I had at Superior."
UW System's first Native American regent
In 2010, then-Gov. James Doyle in appointed Manydeeds to a seven-year term on the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents. The 18-member governing board oversees Wisconsin's 13 four-year public universities and 13 two-year colleges. Manydeeds, a registered member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, is the first Native American to sit on the board.
Although he was aware the governor was seeking a regent from northern Wisconsin, Manydeeds didn't seek out the appointment. Nonetheless, he was happy for the opportunity.
"I never thought about being a regent," he said. "I've been an attorney a long time and the profession has been good to me. I've often thought that I should do something by way of public service to give back, and I always thought about the professional groundwork I received from the UW System at Superior and Madison. Also, I wanted to do something for Native American students."
More than just the 'up north' regent
Although many people may perceive him as the regent from "up north," Manydeeds said he brings a broader range of perspective to the board.
"My perspective is someone who is from northern Wisconsin who went through UW System schools. My children went to Eau Claire, La Crosse and Madison, so I know what parents' concerns are regarding education and expense. I know about the many issues students have," he said. "I also know that being up in northern Wisconsin, sometimes we feel forgotten. I know that's not the case, but I also bring that perspective."
A reluctant student
Acquiring his perspective was a long and sometimes difficult journey. Manydeeds was born in Pierre, S.D., and move with his family to Ashland, Wis., when his father took a job with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The younger Manydeeds was a reluctant student.
"I didn't want to go to college but my father convinced me to try it," Manydeeds said. "So I agreed to go a semester and enrolled at UW-Green Bay. I was there for one semester and I realized I actually kind of liked school."
After his first semester, Manydeeds transferred to UW-Superior to be closer to home and to have an opportunity to play college sports. "Meeting Coach Mertz Mortorelli and being impressed with him was one of the driving forces" that convinced Manydeeds that Superior was the right place for him.
Manydeeds majored in sociology and social work. He described himself as a quiet student at UW-Superior. He observed a lot, and looked for role models on campus.
He recalled Dr. Noel Francisco of the sociology program as "a great guy."
"He took an interest me," Manydeeds said. "He impressed me with his kindness."
Mentors, in and out of the classroom
Like many UW-Superior athletes, he admired Mortorelli, the university's athletic director and the coach for several sports. "Mertz Mortorelli was a role model in terms of acting the way a man should act," Manydeeds said. "Young men need role models and he was that for many people who attended during that era, and he did that for me, also."
He also recalled a mentor he found outside the classroom. "I had a work study job where I helped mop floors in Gates Gym. Alex - and I'm sorry I can't remember his last name - was the janitor in Gates Gym. He was just a great man; a good guy. He was someone who taught me about hard work. He reinforced what I had been taught at home: No matter what you do, take pride in it."
Also at UW-Superior, Manydeeds met his future wife, Marcia Waterhouse. They married a year after they both graduated. Following law school, Manydeeds began his career in Madison. The couple later moved to Eau Claire, where Manydeeds practices civil law today as a partner in the firm of Danielson, Guettinger, Richie & Manydeeds.
Keeping higher education affordable
Manydeeds said one of his main concerns is keeping a college education affordable in Wisconsin.
"One of the biggest challenges we face is the money aspect. Naturally, that dictates what goes on," he said. "With that understood, I would like to see education remain affordable. I want to see everyone who wants to go to college from Wisconsin be able to have that opportunity. That includes Native Americans and every other minority, it includes women. People (should) get a chance to be successful by getting into college and staying in and getting their degrees."
He also wants to encourage people who may not have thought about going to college to give it a try.
"I would like kids out there in junior high and high school to know," he said, "that if they want to accomplish something, (the opportunity for college in Wisconsin) is available for them."
Read more Superior Alumni profiles.
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