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Cal Potter is a Sheboygan native who graduated from North High School in 1964. Immediately after high school, he attended UW-Sheboygan's two year campus and came to Lakeland College to complete his bachelor's degree. Throughout his time at Lakeland, Potter commuted to his classes. Because he lived so close to the school, there was no need to live on campus.
Throughout his life, Potter has been interested in social science and politics. In 1968 he graduated from Lakeland and earned a bachelors degree in broad field social science and secondary education with a minor in history. He aspired to become a social studies teacher.
Although Potter was not involved in athletics at Lakeland, he did belong to several clubs and organizations related to education. He also remembers the success of the men's basketball team. "The basketball team was very good when I was at Lakeland. I have fond memories of going to a lot of the games at the Sheboygan Armory."
Lakeland looked somewhat different in the late 1960's when Potter attended classes here than it does now. "Besides the enrollment being a lot smaller back then, the buildings were a little different too," Potter explained. "The music building was the gymnasium back then, and W.A.K was a dorm. South of W.A.K. there was an old white house where professors had their offices."
Potter also recalled how national events affected students at Lakeland. "In spring of 1968 Johnson decided not to run, and Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated. There were also tensions and civil unrest because of the Vietnam War." Although these events did not occur at Lakeland, they still affected many students, class discussions, and the Sheboygan community.
After graduating from Lakeland, Potter landed a job at Plymouth High School teaching social studies. "Getting a job was easy because there was a shortage of teachers," Potter said. "One of my professors, Mrs. Moreland, wrote me a letter of recommendation. Lakeland helped me get a job," he said. Potter continued to teach at Plymouth High School until 1975.
Potter's love for politics led his career in a new direction. During the time that Potter taught social studies, he was elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly. Potter served eight terms, or sixteen years, in the State Assembly. After his Assembly service, Potter also was a Wisconsin State Senator and served two four year terms in the State Senate.
While in the legislature, Potter was chair of the Assembly Education Committee and Senate Education Committee, as well as chair of and a member of numerous standing and special study committees. He received over 50 awards for his work in the areas of education, libraries, and environment protection. Potter was also author of many legislative proposals such as increased educational standards for students, teachers, and school districts, enhancement of post-secondary academic and technical programming, improvement of library services, environmental protection, and legislation relating to credit unions.
Potter said," One of my main concerns is education. I believe that we need high standards for teachers and students. I also worked with the tuition grant program for college students." Potter is also strong on the environment. "I am concerned about recycling resources, and helped make recycling mandatory in Wisconsin."
In May 1998, Lakeland College awarded Potter an honorary Doctor of Laws degree for his work in education as a State Senator and State Representative. Also in 1998, Potter was appointed by past State Superintendent of Public Instruction John Benson, to an assistant state superintendent position. Potter administered the Department's Division for Libraries, Technology, and Community Learning. He was reappointed to the position in 2001 by State Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster.
Currently Potter is a member of many different boards and councils on the state and local level. He is a member of the Sate Library Council as well as a member of the Board of Directors for the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters. Potter is on the local Sheboygan Concert Association Board which organizes and brings concerts to the community. Potter was also involved with the 2008 presidential campaign. He is the vice-chairperson of the Democratic Party in Sheboygan and was involved with registering people to vote.
When I asked what Potter values more, being a teacher or politician, he replied "both." He said, "Teaching is a very valuable profession. Politics is also something that is very valuable to me in a different kind of way."
Lakeland College helped shape the person that Cal Potter is today. "The one thing that makes Lakeland so unique is the quality of the instructors. The faculty at Lakeland actually cares about you. I was able to learn a lot from my professors." Although Lakeland is a part of Cal Potter's past, it is clear that the college will always be a part of his present.