Sederstrom: Lifetime of Service to Others 5/1/13 05/01/13 8:50:43 AM
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Chuck Sederstrom was encouraged by his late law partner Don Erickson to give back to the community and he took that advice to heart.
Sederstrom: Lifetime of Service to Others
By Lorraine Boyd
The Daily Record
Charles “Chuck” Sederstrom has spent virtually his entire legal career building not only the Omaha firm of Ericson & Sederstrom, but also his community currency in dozens of worthy causes.
It’s no wonder he is receiving the Robert M. Spire Public Service Award at the Omaha Bar Association’s Law Day luncheon today.
A quick look at his volunteer efforts over four and a half decades reveals a sweeping range of interests. Three of his favorites, he said, are the First Responders Foundation, the Salvation Army and West Health Institute.
He’s chairman of the First Responders, who are “trying to arrange to place smoke detectors in all low-income homes free of charge.”
After many years of service to the Salvation Army, he now serves on their national board. In fact, the day of this interview was the day after the Boston Marathon bombings and he was headed to a Salvation Army board meeting there the next day.
He serves on the board of West Health Institute, an independent, non-profit medical research organization whose mission is to lower healthcare costs by developing “innovative patient-centered solutions” that deliver the right care at the right place at the right time. It was founded by Omahans Gary and Mary West.
Those organizations are the tip of the iceberg of service for the soft-spoken, friendly, humorous lawyer. He is currently senior vice president of legal, compliance and legislative services at Alegent Health. He was instrumental in Alegent’s 2012 acquisition of the Creighton University Medical Center-Saint Joseph Hospital (now Alegent Creighton Health) and its smooth transition. His work there dovetails nicely with his area of specialization: corporate law with a particular focus on health law.
Don Erickson, the late co-founder of their law firm, was “an inspiration for all of us,” Sederstrom said. “He believed that we had an obligation to give back to our community.”
From the beginning in 1967, the two, along with all subsequent members of the firm, began volunteering. “As a young lawyer, I was encouraged to get involved.”
He pointed out that on nearly every board he has served on or is serving on, he has company. “There’s at least one other lawyer across the table from me.”
“In Omaha in particular, we have a very active bar and active lawyers in politics, non-profits and churches. We have many local philanthropists too, who give back generously.”
In that kind of environment, it is easy to be active in the community, he said.
The Deadwood, S. D., native graduated from Black Hills Teachers College, now Black Hills State University. They awarded him the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2011.
“When it became clear that I would not make a good elementary teacher, I enrolled in law school,” he chuckled. He earned his J.D. at the University of South Dakota and headed south to Omaha to begin his career. There, he went to work for Swenson and Erickson. Within six months, he and Don Erickson left to start their own firm.
“Don had a mission to make legal services available to poor people for free,” he said.
It was a mission that rubbed off on Chuck in many ways. In addition to all the non-profits he has guided, he also served on the Legal Aid Society’s (now Legal Aid of Nebraska) development council from 1987 to 1997, and on its board of directors from 1995 to 1998. He was president of the Omaha Bar Association in 1984-85. He is a member of the Nebraska, Omaha, and South Dakota Bar Associations.
All that community service didn’t mean he neglected his home life. He and his wife have four grown children “scattered all over the place,” and they are all successful, although none are lawyers, he said.
“If welcomed into an organization and given meaningful work, you’ll do a good job. I can’t overemphasize that, as you get involved, you can’t help but succeed.”
He could be referring to his work environment or his volunteer efforts. Either way, Chuck Sederstrom has embraced “meaningful work” and made it a “very pleasurable experience.” It’s easy to see that every single endeavor of his has been both pleasurable and meaningful for him.
Which brings us back around to the Robert M. Spire Public Service Award that Sederstrom will receive today. Spire (1925-1994) was a Nebraska lawyer who served as Nebraska’s attorney general, and was most remembered for his devotion to public service. He was quoted as saying his personal motto was to "get up early and work hard, to listen to the people and accept criticism, to correct my mistakes and try to do what is right."
“Bob was a dear friend,” Sederstrom said. “I always wanted to emulate him.” And that makes this award all the more sweet for him, the award named after his dear friend.