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Former SCSU President Dies

07/20/2009 - 3:10 AM

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Former SCSU President Dies

Former St. Cloud State University President Robert Bess passed away Monday morning in California.  Current President Earl Potter is sharing the news with the campus and community via an e-mail announcement.  In his message he writes that Bess was a California transplant that loved his home state, but he had anything but an interim attitude while he served at SCSU.  He quickly became known as a fair and involved leader.  He was appointed to the position of interim president in 1992, following the resignation of Brendan McDonald.  He served until 1995.

Both campus and community members appreciated his advocacy for equal opportunity and enriching experiences for every individual at the university. Under his leadership the American Indian Center was formed.  One of his last actions as president was to confer St. Cloud State University’s first honorary doctorate on 90-year-old Minnesota labor leader and civil rights activist Nellie Stone Johnson because, he said, her life and accomplishments had been a testament to the lessons that the best educators and parents wish to instill in their students and their children.

Bess was known as well for his enthusiastic support for the arts and local cultural organizations. He was the driving force behind an ambitious St. Cloud public fundraising campaign to renovate Stewart Hall Auditorium with new seats, sound system and other needed improvements.

Perhaps the greatest legacy of Bess’s presidency was building the foundation for greater opportunities for educational exchanges with colleges in South Africa, a project he began just a year after legal segregation under apartheid in that country was ended.

Memorial details will be announced later this week.