December 11, 2013

Mandela Remembered through Hamline Law Scholarship

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Nelson Mandela’s legacy will live on in countless ways, including through an academic scholarship at the Hamline School of Law. The former South African president and renowned anti-apartheid activist has long been an inspiration for law alumnus William Manning JD '78. To help ensure that people who embody Mandela’s ideals will continue to enter the field of law, Manning established the Nelson Mandela Scholarship in 2003.

“Nelson Mandela is the greatest lawyer who ever lived,” Manning said. “A great lawyer stands in the shoes of another person and gives them voice.”

Reading Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom for the first time was a transformative experience for Manning, who has given away over 200 copies of the book to aspiring attorneys and colleagues. The autobiography was partially composed on toilet paper during Mandela’s 27-year imprisonment for standing up against apartheid. Mandela continued to use the law degree he had earned prior to his incarceration and represented himself and fellow prisoners. Within four years of his 1990 release from jail, Mandela became the first black president in South Africa.

“He’s provided enormous inspiration for me, as to what it means to be a lawyer,” Manning said. “Ultimately, he put himself in the shoes of his entire country and then did something that no one has ever done in the history of the world, as we know it. He led a country in forgiveness after a minority group, five-million white people, had oppressed a majority population, 50-million black people. Even after acts of brutal oppression, he led people to forgive.”

Manning had the opportunity to meet this extraordinary man in person in 2000 when Mandela spoke at a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People event in Minneapolis. Manning was struck by the former South African president’s direct and thoughtful demeanor.

“He stands very straight, takes your hand, and looks you in the eye,” Manning said, recalling the experience. “He takes time to really look at people and consider them fully as individuals.”

Manning created the Nelson Mandela scholarship to support aspiring law students from South Africa and those who embody the ideals of love and forgiveness exemplified by Mandela. The scholarship is awarded to one student every year, and Manning hopes that this will be just one more way that Mandela’s legacy lives on.

“I will fund that scholarship in his name – not in my name – because of the inspiration that he, as a lawyer, can provide for decades and decades, to law students at Hamline,” Manning said.

Manning has served on Hamline’s Board of Trustees and has been awarded the distinguished alumni award by the Hamline School of Law. He is currently working as a partner at Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi with a focus on intellectual property law. Manning says he still has copies of Long Walk to Freedom on his desk at work and on his coffee table at home as a constant reminder of the principles he tries to live his life by. Hear more of Manning's thoughts about Mandela and the scholarship by watching the video below, or by going the School of Law's YouTube channel.