Baraga steps back in role as chairman

Matt Graham

For the second month in a row, Vice Chairwoman Patricia Simmons will assume the duties of chairwoman at the Board of Regents meeting next month.

Tony Baraga, the Board of Regents chairman, is taking a temporary backseat as his wife recovers from cancer surgery and prepares for chemotherapy.

Though he won’t serve as chairman during the next couple of months, Baraga will still attend the board meetings and vote on issues, said Ann Cieslak, executive director and corporate secretary of the Board of Regents. Baraga’s list of overall responsibilities will be reduced as he helps his wife recover.

Baraga will resume his full duties as chairman beginning Jan. 1.

Neither Baraga nor Simmons could be reached for comment.

Cieslak said this is the first time she knows of that a board chairperson had to temporarily relinquish duties, though chairpersons have missed meetings due to illness.

University Deputy General Counsel Bill Donohue said University officials consulted with his office before temporarily conferring chair duties to Simmons, who will not become the chairwoman, and said “the action that the regents have taken is in accordance with their bylaws.”

Though this is the first temporary leave a board chairperson has taken, Cieslak said a chairman has stepped away from the role permanently.

In April 1993, Elton Kuderer had to vacate the position two months early when his term as a member of the board ended and the Legislature didn’t reappoint him.

When asked whether the change will affect the day-to-day operations of the board, Regent Dallas Bohnsack said “not a bit.”

“I have absolute confidence in Patty Ö she has great leadership skills,” he said. “We won’t miss a beat.”

Bohnsack said Baraga notified the members of the board about the change during the past few days.

He said Baraga was in good spirits, and he encouraged him to take the time off.

“Tony’s a physician and wants to be there and needs to be there and should be there,” Bohnsack said.