Obituary: Michael Baynes of St. Kate's challenged students

  • Article by: PAMELA MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 14, 2012 - 9:02 PM

Michael Baynes, 55, was much loved on the university's Minneapolis campus.

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Michael Baynes

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When Latrinka Owens told her mentor, Michael Baynes, how much she was dreading her July 6 wisdom teeth surgery, he didn't hesitate to offer help.

"He said he'd take me there," said Owens, 25, of Minneapolis, a recent graduate of St. Catherine University's Minneapolis campus, where Baynes was associate director of student life.

"When he was just one minute late, I knew something was wrong," she said. "He was so reliable, never late, not once, in the seven years I've known him." She called and texted him multiple times, then called his assistant, then found another way to her appointment. Afterward, she heard the awful news: Baynes had died after being accidentally pinned by his own vehicle in the parking garage of his condo at International Market Square in Minneapolis as he headed out to pick up Owens. He was 55.

On Friday, hundreds of St. Kate's students, administrators, friends and relatives gathered at his family church in New Richland, Minn., to say goodbye to the popular administrator and adjunct professor.

Baynes, the first of six siblings, was born in Waseca, Minn., and graduated from New Richland-Hartland High School, said his sister, Kathleen Baynes, of Minneapolis. He earned his undergraduate degree in elementary education from Winona State University and his master's degree in college student personnel work at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. After working at several colleges on the East Coast and at the University of Minnesota, he was hired by St. Kate's in 1998.

"He absolutely loved St. Kate's," his sister said. "He was so proud of the students, and believed so deeply in the potential of every one of them. He always told us it was a job that allowed him to be creative."

Jenaya Farkell, 20, of Spring Lake Park, worked with Baynes after being hired by him last year as student life assistant. "He was a great boss, a joy," she said. "It's so hard to wrap my head around not seeing him anymore. He taught me so many things and always had such a positive attitude -- no matter how bad a day was, he'd find something positive in it and spin it around."

"He was the salt of the earth," said Owens, who met him after arriving at St. Kate's from her hometown of Milwaukee at age 18. "When I came here, I was so young, didn't know a soul. He helped me find my first job here, taught me to get around, took me to get my first car, introduced me to nice people and events I never would have encountered otherwise, threw me a graduation party. He made this place my home."

Owens said she will do her best to honor Baynes' "great way of always only seeing only the best in people."

Curt Galloway, St. Kate's dean of students and Baynes' longtime colleague, said he "was a strong personality, a humorous, insightful guy who set high expectations for students, always challenging them to do more and to see themselves as more."

"Our Minneapolis campus is small -- just 800 to 900 students -- so staff here play multiple roles," Galloway said. "He worked in our orientation program, was director of resident life, advised the student representative group, worked on educational programming for nights and weekends and coordinated graduation. So he often saw a student from start to finish at St. Kate's."

In the nearly 15 years he worked at St. Kate's, Baynes "influenced every sector -- students, faculty, staff on both campuses," said Brian Bruess, vice president of enrollment management and student affairs . "It's hard to think of another person who impacted so many different people so deeply. He had such class, style, creativity, and was a compass for me and so many others. And he could light up a room just by walking into it."

In addition to his sister, Baynes is survived by his mother, Joan, of New Richland; four brothers, Dan of New Richland, Joe of Prescott, Ariz., Terry of Kiester, Minn., and John of Minneapolis.

Pamela Miller • 612-673-4290

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