University’s Board of Regents convenes with new chairman in place

Anthony Baraga had served as the board’s vice chairman for the past two years.

Matt Graham

Outside the boardroom in the McNamara Alumni Center, photos of past Boards of Regents hang in rows, a reminder to the present guardians of the University’s future.

The time has come for a new leader and another picture.

The Board of Regents will meet today with former vice chairman Anthony Baraga at the helm.

The retired radiologist, who is replacing Dave Metzen as regents chairman, has served on the board since 1999, and was the vice chairman for the last two years. Patricia Simmons, a regent since 2003, will fill Baraga’s old post.

“Tony Baraga’s going to do an outstanding job Ö. I’m going to look forward to serving with him,” said Metzen, who will remain on the board.

Other regents consistently praised Baraga as an intelligent, thoughtful man, perfect for a leadership role.

“He’s very bright,” Regent Dallas Bohnsack said. “His method is to know and gather the facts.”

Regent Lakeesha Ransom said Baraga “will provide good, stable leadership.”

“He gives critical thought to important decisions,” she said.

Born and raised in Chisholm, Minn., the 66-year-old brings with him a legacy of leadership.

Since graduating from the University’s Medical School in 1965, Baraga has been a member of several medical boards and also served as chief of staff at the University Medical Center in Mesabi, Minn.

The father of four manages to stay busy in the community.

“I think he has a strong interest in civic duty,” said his son Joe Baraga. “He wants to give back to the University.”

Since retiring from his medical practice two years ago, Anthony Baraga has remained active, he said. He keeps a vegetable garden that he calls his “half-time job” and also avidly fishes for walleyes and crappies.

When asked what was the biggest fish he ever caught, Anthony Baraga said, “Not as big as (University President Bob Bruininks has caught), but I’ve caught a lot more.”

Anthony Baraga’s recent attempts at learning a new sport have not been as successful, he said.

“I always said when I got old and unathletic, I would take up golf,” he said. “But I think I waited too long, and now I’m a little too unathletic.”

Looking ahead to his two-year term, Anthony Baraga said, he expects the big issues to be the implementation of the plan to make the University one of the world’s top three public research institutions within the next decade as well as the perpetual issue of tuition increases.

While University undergraduates will face a 7.5 percent tuition increase next year, that number is well below the double-digit raises of the last four years, Anthony Baraga said. He would like to see a yearly “cost of living-type” tuition hike of approximately 3 percent.

Anthony Baraga said changes brought about by the strategic positioning plan will be good for the University, despite the controversy surrounding them.

Anthony Baraga emphasized that the University is not eliminating General College, whose closure is the source of most of the controversy, but merging it with other programs.

Whatever turbulence the University faces in the next two years, those who have worked with Anthony Baraga said they are confident of his abilities.

“Tony’s really committed to excellence,” said Richard Dinter, who has been Anthony Baraga’s colleague and radiologist at the University Medical Center-Mesabi for 25 years. “I think he will do a great job.”

Regents have July meeting

The committees of the Board of Regents will meet today prior to the monthly meeting of the board for an abbreviated, one-hour session.

Because it is the first meeting of the new session, regents said the docket is lighter than usual.

Richard Pfutzenreuter, the University’s chief financial officer, will present the board with an annual audit plan.

Regent Bohnsack said the board will also discuss the continuing state government shutdown and its impact on the University.