Bill Manwarren is the alumni association's 2004 Volunteer of the Year.
Member profile: Bill Manwarren
Member profile: Bill Manwarren
From M, winter 2005
Nothing could keep Bill Manwarren (B.S. '69) from getting a college education. He grew up on a small southern Minnesota farm in a family that knew the value of hard work, but not of higher education. His parents had not gone beyond grade school and Manwarren would be the first of 40 cousins to go on to college. The family farm outside Wells was so small that there was no spare money to help him financially, and if there had been, Manwarren is not sure his parents would have been willing. "My parents, deep down, I think they wanted me to accomplish it," he says. "But they were afraid I was going to set my hopes way up here and get them dashed." But a high school teacher encouraged Manwarren by showing him that there was a world beyond daytime factory work with night and weekend farming, a route taken by many around him. He worked 80 hours a week on a Green Giant harvest crew each summer, saving every cent toward his tuition and room and board. He also received a small scholarship from Green Giant and, at the U, worked 10 hours a week while completing a demanding agricultural education curriculum that required more credits than most other undergraduate programs. When he first arrived on campus, Manwarren discovered how sheltered--and how difficult--his life on the farm had been. Even the students of stoic Swedish and Norwegian ancestry, the first he'd ever met, "just really amazed me with how much fun they had," he recalls. "It was a real eye-opener. I learned more outside the classroom than inside the first year." In the end, "my parents were proud," he says. "My mom made it known at family gatherings that I'd made it through. Quite a few of my younger cousins ended up going to college, too." Manwarren is now an extraordinary volunteer for his alma mater, the College of Agricultural, Food, and Environmental Sciences (COAFES). The former president of the college's alumni society and one of its most aggressive scholarship fundraisers earned the 2004 University of Minnesota Alumni Association Volunteer of the Year award. Manwarren worked as a high school teacher in Tracy, Minnesota, for several years, passing on his belief in higher education. He moved on to a business career with Cenex--now CHS--and became an active volunteer with church, youth sports, and even helped start a 4-H chapter in suburban Dakota County with his wife, Cindy (B.S. '69). When their sons enrolled at the University in the early 1990s, the Manwarrens became active with their alma mater. "[Returning to the University] brings back memories of why I was here," he says. "You don't even think about your own story. You kind of forget it; you go on to your next thing. But being here I get to take a look at something really meaningful in my life and think about why. For example, why have I got such a passion for scholarships? Because I have a passion for higher education and for making sure other people have opportunities like I did. "That's what keeps me involved with COAFES," he continues, talking about the group that was named the 2004 UMAA Society of the Year. "We're a very effective society. I think we're really accomplishing important things." Other outstanding volunteers, alumni groups, events, and initiatives all earned UMAA awards this year, including the Rochester Area Alumni and Friends of the University of Minnesota as Chapter of the Year. For more award winners, information on alumni groups, and to join Bill Manwarren as a UMAA member, visit the University of Minnesota Alumni Association, or call 612-624-2323 or 800-UM-ALUMS.