Panel to interview 18 U of M regent applicants including Hsu, Luther, Turner, Painter, Wheeler, Burns


Eighteen applicants for four spots on the University of Minnesota Board of Regents have been moved forward to the interview process by a special committee charged with making recommendations to the Legislature.

Among those who will be interviewed by members of the Regent Candidate Advisory Council next month are incumbent members Kendall Powell and Tadd Johnson, former member Michael Hsu, and former U.S. Rep. Bill Luther.

Also moving forward is Minnesota Nurses Association president Mary Turner, U of M law professor and former U.S. Senate candidate Richard Painter, and former U of M men’s gymnastics coach Mike Burns.

Among the 11 who will not be interviewed are Jim Carter, a former Gophers and Green Bay Packers football player who was a finalist in 2017. At the time, reports surfaced of a lawsuit stemming from a 1976 sexual harassment incident involving Carter and a team employee.

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“We’ve got a good group, 18 to interview,  and there are good candidates in there,” said Sen. Greg Clausen, DFL-Apple Valley, who is chair of the panel. After interviewing candidates the week of Jan. 13, the panel will vote to send two-to-four names for each of the four openings. The Legislature, however, can disregard the recommendations and can even nominate people who did not go through the candidate selection process.

State Sen. Greg Clausen: “We’ve got a good group, 18 to interview and there are good candidates in there.”

MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan

State Sen. Greg Clausen: “We’ve got a good group, 18 to interview, and there are good candidates in there.”

Every two years, legislators meet in a joint session to select four regents who serve six-year terms on the university’s governing board. The U of M has unique autonomy from both the Legislature and governor under provisions that were in the state’s territorial constitution and were absorbed when Minnesota became a state in 1858. Lawmakers do have some control via budgetary appropriations but are mostly prohibited from influencing academic and administrative decisions.

Here are the people who will be interviewed:


  • Val Aarsvold, of Altura, is the executive director of the Minnesota FFA Foundation and agriculture education graduate of the U of M.
  • Mike Burns, of St. Paul, is the head coach of the U of M gymnastic program who lost his job when the board voted to eliminate that sport and others.
  • Arnoldo Curiel is the director of inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility for University of Minnesota Physicians. He lives in Oakdale.
  • Michael Hsu is a former regent from Blaine who was not reappointed by the Legislature two years ago. He is a co-founder and chief financial officer of the College Basketball Players Association.
  • Kendall Powell, of Golden Valley, is the current board chair and is the former Chairman of CEO of General Mills.
  • Rebecca Siekmeier of Grant is the director of the SciTech internship program for the Minnesota Technology Association. She is a former Gopher discus thrower and a member of the U of M Hall of Fame.
  • Flora Yang, of Eden Prairie, is a current human physiology student and is the student body president at the U of M’s Twin Cities campus.

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2nd Congressional District

  • Joe Atkins, of Inver Grove Heights, is an attorney and current member of the Dakota County Board of Commissioners and was reelected last month.
  • Cheryl Bemel, of Mendota Heights, is a psychologist with Allina Health and in private practice.
  • Robyn Gulley, of West St. Paul, is a labor training specialist for the Minnesota AFL-CIO.
  • Richard Painter, of Mendota Heights, is a U of M law professor and was associate counsel to President George W. Bush where he was the ethics officer.

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3rd Congressional District

  • William Humphries, of Chanhassen, is a former Gopher football player and former president of the M Club who owns several quick-serve restaurants in the Twin Cities with his son Kris Humphries who played basketball for the Gophers and in the NBA.
  • Bill Luther, of Minnetonka, served in Congress for two terms from 1999 to 2003 and was in the state Senate before that. He was a finalist for a regent position in 2015.
  • Steven Sanderson, of Plymouth, is a physician and gastroenterologist who is development chair of the Friends of Arava Institute, which supports environmental studies and research in the Middle East.
  • Penny Wheeler lives in Orono and retired from the CEO position at Allina Health earlier this year and is a board member of the University of Minnesota Foundation.
  • Mary Turner lives in Plymouth and has been the public face of the nurses association in the Twin Cities during political campaigns and in recent high-profile job actions by the union against area hospitals. She is an ICU nurse at North Memorial Hospital.

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8th Congressional District

  • Susan Cohen, of White Bear Lake, is the president of the Center for Regulatory Research and a former plant pathologist with the USDA.
  • Tadd Johnson, of Duluth, was appointed to a vacant seat on the board by Gov. Tim Walz and is a former professor and director of graduate studies at the U of M Duluth. He also is a senior adviser on government affairs with the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.

The full list is applicants is here.


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