MSA presidents: More than just student governors

Amber Kispert

Several past presidents of the Minnesota Student Association have become prominent members of society.

Through their on-campus tenures, these presidents are known throughout campus – but few know what happens to them after they leave.

Orville Freeman

Orville Freeman served as MSA president from 1941 to 1942.

In the middle of Freeman’s term as MSA president, he resigned to join the U.S. Marines.

Freeman’s claim to fame came in 1955, when he was elected governor of Minnesota. Freeman served as governor until 1961.

After his term as governor, Freeman became the U.S. secretary of agriculture from 1961 to 1969.

Freeman’s son, Michael Freeman, has carried on his father’s legacy by taking up the position of Hennepin County attorney.

Orville Freeman died on Feb. 20, 2003 of complications from Alzheimer’s.

Jim Johnson

Jim Johnson has had his fair share of government experience after serving as MSA president from 1963 to 1964. From 1971 to 1981, Johnson was the executive assistant to Vice President Walter F. Mondale.

Johnson became the chairman and chief executive officer for Fannie Mae in 1991; he stayed in this position until 1998.

During the 2004 elections, Johnson was hot on the campaign trail as the vice presidential selection chairman for Sen. John Kerry’s presidential campaign.

Currently, Johnson works as vice chairman for Perseus, a merchant bank and private equity fund management company in Washington, D.C.

Jack Baker

The University made history when first-year law student Jack Baker was elected MSA president in 1972.

Baker was the first gay student body president for a major university who made no secret of his sexual orientation throughout his stint at the University.

Two years before his election, Baker and his partner, Michael McConnell, were the first gay couple to apply for a marriage license in the United States on May 18, 1970 at the Hennepin County courthouse.

“My lover and I set in motion a series of events that transformed an entire world,” he said.

Baker also transformed an entire campus during his run as MSA president.

“‘Student control over student concerns’ was a key phrase in my administration,” he said.

Baker succeeded in putting a student on the Board of Regents – today it is still required to have one student representative.

“Upon election, I insisted that students be invited to sit on all Regents’ committees as voting members,” he said.

Baker has moved on to become a practicing attorney and engineer for the past 30 years. At the end of this year, Baker will be retiring from both professions.

In 2002, Baker ran for an associate justice position on the Minnesota Supreme Court against Paul H. Anderson. Baker lost, garnering 31 percent of the vote.

Tony Wagner

Tony Wagner had not planned on running for MSA president at the end of his sophomore year in 1993, but said he felt he could accomplish things that others couldn’t.

“I had not planned to run for president, but I didn’t really think the candidates that were seeking the role were representative of what students wanted at that time,” he said.

The issue that Wagner was most concerned with during his run as MSA president was more community involvement from students.

For the past 11 years, Wagner has worked for Carlson-Wagonlit Travel as the vice president of meetings and events.

He has also continued in his political ambitions, serving as a City Council member for Minnetonka.

“It’s a nice little diversion,” he said. “The desire is to come up with the best outcome for the general population.”

Through the Minnetonka City Council, Wagner is a member of the Southwest Corridor Committee for the light rail.

Matt Musel

While serving as MSA president from 1995 to 1996, Matt Musel and his fellow MSA members accomplished a lot, most significantly saving General College.

“In however a student involves themselves, they are going to learn some of what they’re good at and some of what they need to grow at,” he said. “Those lessons still affect me today.”

For two years, Musel found himself in the state Capitol working as the citizen outreach case worker under Gov. Jesse Ventura.

Currently, Musel works for the University Foundation as a development officer raising money for extension programs at the University.