Family’s UMKC History Spans Seven Decades

Edelman Family to receive UMKC Legacy Award
Bill and Doris Edelman

Each year, the UMKC Alumni Association recognizes the achievements of outstanding alumni with an awards celebration. UMKC is honoring the Edelman Family with the Class of 2020 Legacy Award.

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Doris Edelman

The Edelman Family’s UMKC legacy began when 12-year-old Doris Tager fled Nazi Germany in 1938. Her family traveled to the Netherlands and Cuba before arriving in Kansas City, whose local Jewish community sponsored their voyage. She’d go on to attend Kansas City University (now UMKC) and graduate in 1947 with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and economics. That same year, Doris met her future husband, William Edelman, a fellow Roo who would graduate in 1954 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

Doris had a successful career as a stockbroker and was the first female vice president and partner of B.C. Christopher and Company where she worked for more than 20 years. William served patients in the heart of Kansas City as a family physician for more than 50 years before retiring in 2001.

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William Edelman

Their oldest son, Mark (J.D. ’75), founded the Theater League, Inc., a not-for-profit community-based performing arts organization that presented the best of Broadway to Kansas City audiences for 42 years.

Youngest son Ron (J.D. ’82) opened one of the region’s most successful law practices — Edelman and Thompson — with James Thompson in 1994.

Middle son Alan and his wife, Debbie Sosland-Edelman, great supporters of UMKC, also connect with the university through their son Alexander (J.D. ’12). He started his own firm with two other UMKC alumni and was recognized by the National LGBT Bar Association as one of the “40 Best Attorneys Under 40.”

We spoke with Mark, Ron and Alexander about their career paths.

Mark Edelman
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Mark Edelman
Not everyone would connect theatre and law degrees. Did you already have a plan for putting your law degree to use in theatre when you began at UMKC?

I hoped to become an entertainment lawyer and volunteered (hung out may be a better description) in New York at an office at the Bar Association of the City of New York that provided services for artists. After graduation, I studied for the NY Bar exam; but I got a job running the Bucks County Playhouse in suburban Philadelphia instead. They were impressed I had a law degree.

Over the course of your career, you met some famous folks. Any encounters that stand out in your memory?

My first presentation in Kansas City—while I was still in law school—involved a student activities-funded presentation of an off-Broadway show called LEMMINGS. After the show, the cast came to my apartment at 44th and Walnut, where my neighbors joined me in welcoming them. Three of the actors there were Chevy Chase, John Belushi and Christopher Guest. The following year, they were all on or writing SNL.

What does leaving a legacy mean to you? How does it feel to be sharing this award with your family?

While my brother Ron and nephew Alex continue to make great strides on behalf of their clients, I am most proud to share this with my folks, who had to deal with prejudice and near poverty to succeed at KCU. My mother and her family escaped Nazi Germany to find their way first to Cuba and then Kansas City. My father faced anti-Semitism in graduate school elsewhere, but found a more welcoming, inclusive environment in Kansas City.

Ron Edelman
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Ron Edelman
You’ve been nationally recognized as a top workers’ compensation lawyer. Why is representing personal injury and workers’ compensation cases important to you?

An injury on the job, or an injury caused by the fault of another party, can be financially and emotionally devastating for the victim and their family. To be able to help people in their time of need by making sure that all the bills are [covered], and that they and their family are compensated for their losses, is extremely satisfying.

What advice do you have for students who’d like to follow in your footsteps?

Don’t listen to anyone else’s advice, including mine. That said, “Follow your heart (and your head).” 

Alexander Edelman
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Alexander Edelman
What is your proudest accomplishment?

My proudest accomplishment is my role in helping build the law firm Edelman, Liesen & Myers, L.L.P. from the ground up. Within just a few years, we were able to build a practice that fights for individual rights, especially in their employment and in public accommodation, and have helped obtain justice for those who have been discriminated against or mistreated. The firm has continued to grow, and we are able to help even more people, and we’ve been able to help shape the law in a way that clarifies and protects the legal rights of individuals.

You were named one of the 40 Best LGBT Attorneys Under 40. How does it feel to have achieved such success before 40?

Receiving the recognition from the National LGBT Bar Association was a huge honor. I am very proud to be able to represent the LGBT community, both as a member of the community and by serving clients from the community. I am extremely lucky to have found partners who are also passionate about standing up for the rights of LGBT people as well as others, and thus to have the opportunity to be able to do this kind of work so early in my career.

How did UMKC contribute to your success?

Most directly, UMKC is where I met my classmates, Sarah Liesen (J.D. ’12) and Katherine Myers (J.D. ’12), who became my law partners, and without whom I could not have had any of the professional success I have achieved. It also provided the solo and small firm incubator, where we got our start.

About the Alumni Awards

Join us in honoring the Edelman Family and the other Class of 2020 Awardees in our first-ever virtual celebration at 5 p.m. April 16. Go to umkcalumni.com/alumniawards to register for this free event. If you are unable to attend the event but would like to donate to student scholarships, contributions can be made online.

 

Meet the rest of the 2020 UMKC Alumni Awardees


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