Preparing leaders to combat oppression
In the late 1970s, singer Anita Bryant began a public and political tirade against the rights of gay and lesbian educators to teach in U.S. schools. While her words eventually galvanized the LGBTQ community, they also marginalized many in the profession. Among those were Redbird Ed Manley ’79, M.S. ’83, who was student teaching in Peoria at the time.
Almost 40 years later, the memory leaves a scar.
“It was frightening, and it was also infuriating,” he said. “There is no reason to limit who can teach and who can’t.”
When Manley reached out to give back to the University, he was focused on supporting efforts to combat oppression, regardless of who it targets. That objective led him to invest in the College Student Personnel Administration (CSPA) program in the form of a planned leadership level gift from his estate.
The CSPA graduate program prepares student affairs professionals for a multitude of roles on college campuses. Alumni of the program serve in leadership roles in 43 states and several countries worldwide.
“Student affairs professionals are a university’s educators outside the classroom,” said Professor and CSPA Program Director Phyllis McCluskey-Titus. “Everything that happens outside the academic realm, approximately 75 percent of student experiences, is usually facilitated by these administrators.”
CSPA grads have a holistic understanding of college students, explains McCluskey-Titus. This knowledge empowers them to create programs, services, and policies to help students grow and develop. Manley’s contributions will support the creation of a dynamic cultural and social justice curricula to educate future leaders on diversity, inclusion, and oppression.
“For me, this is about expanding the way I can impact students here at Illinois State, and in turn, the students they serve. The reach becomes exponential,” he said.
Another factor that gave Manley confidence was the quality of the educational experience he—and several of his family members—received at Illinois State. Both his grandmothers were ISNU alums, graduating in 1917 and 1922, and they both taught in one-room schoolhouses. He still displays his paternal grandmother’s school bell in his own house. His brother and sister-in-law attended the University along with Manley, and his niece is a proud Redbird, as well.
“The education program provided me with so many practical experiences in the classroom early and often, starting my freshmen year. That, combined with junior practicum and student teaching, really set me up for success,” he said.
Manley taught middle level special education in high-need Peoria Public Schools for several years, also earning a master’s degree from Illinois State along the way.
In the 1980s, the educator’s career path took him to Seattle, where he would support school districts by equipping them with computers and other emerging educational technologies. He then entered the ultra-competitive world of Microsoft, where he became one of the organization’s top sales trainers. He credits his foundation at Illinois State for helping him to become a successful educator in both the public education and corporate realms.
“I wasn’t ever the smartest person at Microsoft, but I worked three times harder than anyone else,” he said.
“I learned the importance of that mentality here at Illinois State. They taught me the virtue of persistence and the benefits of working hard. Those are the lessons that help you be successful in life.”