Two former students become regents

Stacy Jo

Since garnering degrees from the University in the 1960s, two alumni have moved up in the ranks — from graduates to two of the school’s primary decision makers.
And they both say the love of their alma mater is what encouraged them to apply for the 40-hour-per-month, unpaid positions on the Board of Regents.
The state Legislature on Thursday elected Dallas Bohnsack of New Prague and Anthony Baraga of Side Lake to the board. Both ran for positions during the last regent selection cycle in 1993. While their initial bids were unsuccessful, both returned to secure positions on the University’s top governing board this year.
Lifelong Minnesota resident Bohnsack, who represents the 2nd Congressional District, unseated incumbent Regent Julie Bleyhl. Baraga garnered the Legislature’s unanimous support to represent the 8th district, replacing outgoing regent Tom Reagan, who chose not to reapply for his position on the board.
Since graduating from the University in 1960 with a degree in plant industry, Bohnsack has worked as a self-employed farmer. While his independent farming enterprise has always been his main priority, Bohnsack’s civic interests drew him to seek public office.
Although he said he was interested in government during school, Bohnsack didn’t actually seek elected office until the late 1970s when he secured a position as a township officer. He later held a position as a Scott County commissioner, in addition to serving on several committees — including University extension, county extension and farm commitees.
Bohnsack said this experience in the social sphere taught him how to build group consensus and how to respond to constituents’ interests.
“I think anybody that comes to the Board of Regents has to have some sort of governance (experience),” Bohnsack said.
Before last Monday’s 2nd district caucus — where legislators later endorsed him for the seat — Bohnsack stressed the role the University’s research plays in driving the state’s economy. He added that his farming background propels his “sole mission” to represent agriculture on the board.
“(Agriculture) will have my total, total concentration,” Bohnsack told legislators.
Still an active alumnus of the University’s Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity, Bohnsack said he will bring outreach and extension experience, practicality and strong accountability to the board.
Also a Minnesota native, Baraga was born and raised in Chisholm, Minn., and has stayed close to his northern Minnesota roots for most of his life. After graduating from the University’s Medical School in 1965 and a brief interning stint in Minneapolis, Baraga returned to the north, where he practiced medicine in Hibbing for 10 years.
Since then, Baraga has worked in radiology and is now chief of staff at Hibbing’s University Medical Center-Mesabi and at Chisholm Memorial Hospital.
Because of his close proximity to the University of Minnesota-Duluth, Baraga said the campus will be a focus for him. Through the Hibbing hospital, which is part of the University system, Baraga works with medical students in an outreach program.
Baraga said he wants to improve regent interaction with students. He compared the University to a large corporation in which board members feel far-removed from those they work for. “I don’t think we should be an aloof board,” Baraga said.
Baraga added that his strong financial background and close relationships with members of the state Legislature could prove beneficial for the University.
Bohnsack and Baraga will participate in a regent orientation and begin attending board meetings next month.