Proudly advocating for his alma mater

At our October UMRA A.M. event, Regent Emeritus Richard Beeson presented his reflections on his 12 years on the Board of Regents and his two years as chair. In a remarkably thoughtful and candid talk, he told us about his most important initiatives during his period on the board, and his concerns for the future of the University. He emphasized how his time at the University as an undergraduate influenced his development and career, ultimately leading him to become one of the leading advocates for his alma mater.

A banker for most of his professional life (currently with Sunrise Banks in St. Paul), Beeson said he concentrated on the business side of the University, hoping to use his experience and skills as a small businessperson to enhance the University’s finances and organizational acumen.

View a video recording of UMRA A.M. with Regent Emeritus Rick Beeson.

He said he appreciated the University as an academic institution and its governance structure, which heavily involved the faculty. His goals were to enhance access to the University for high school students from all over the state, and to foster the faculty and staff who provided such excellent teaching. He was in favor of enhanced pay for all University employees.

A way to talk about—and measure—progress
Beeson was most proud of his efforts to establish metrics for the University. The University of Minnesota Progress Card first approved by the Board of Regents in 2015, is a comprehensive set of measures and goals such as graduation rates, institutional aid to students, research and development, and employee engagement to guide the development of programs and administration at the University. These measures, geared toward change over a five-year period, are still in use and provide a way to talk practically about progress.  

Second, he took some credit for driving the discussion about administrative cost savings while, at the same time, insisting on operational excellence. During this time, the U committed to a goal of saving $90 million in administrative costs. The goal was achieved during the Kaler administration and provided funding for academic programming.

Third, he energized a new emphasis on the Medical School and research funding. Beeson noted that the Medical School accounted for 40 percent of the University budget but received around 5 percent of the board’s time. He brought to the board more oversight of these functions, delving closely into the relationship with Fairview to assure that it provided additional funding for the Medical School.

Among his aspirations for higher education in Minnesota, he suggested a governor’s commission to study and align mission, capacity, and demand at higher education institutions throughout the state. He also suggested more focus on “forever issues” at the University, including access and excellence, administrative costs, constitutional autonomy, and a few others. He is a supporter of intercollegiate athletics, but firmly believes that it must operate on a balanced budget and not draw resources from the rest of the University.

His talk was followed by a question and answer session moderated by UMRA member Karen Schanfield. It was a lively session that included discussion of how regents are selected. Beeson noted that all systems for choosing regents have flaws but said ours has produced reasonable results. He encouraged our members to consider applying for membership on the Regent Candidate Advisory Council.

—Bill Donohue, UMRA past president 2019–20

Publication date: 
October 24, 2021
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