The first time Darrin Rosha was elected to the U’s Board of Regents, he was barely out of his teens. Then, he was the lone student voice on a board of elder statesmen (and women), charged with making weighty decisions about the future of the University of Minnesota.

Now, a quarter-century later, he’s back. Rosha, 46, will be sworn in next week for a special two-year term to succeed his late friend and mentor, David Larson, who died in October.

A lot has changed, Rosha admits, since his first stint on the board from 1989 to 1995. “I was 20 when I was elected,” he said, as an ambitious undergraduate who was studying economics and political science.

It was a time, he remembers, when the four-year graduation rates on the Twin Cities campus were barely 17 percent (compared to 61 percent today).

And there wasn’t much emphasis on ensuring that students got the courses, or guidance, they needed to finish on time. “We worked very hard” to change that, he recalls. “Now it’s a respectable number, but there’s still room for improvement.”

On the personal front, he’s now a lawyer and a military judge with the National Guard, who lives with his wife, Valorie, and three young children on a horse farm in Independence. He also works, full time, as general manager and corporate counsel for an Eagan medical practice, Crutchfield Dermatology.

In the past few years, he admits, he started musing about returning to the board someday. When Larson died, Rosha decided to throw his hat into the ring — and beat out three other candidates to win the legislative appointment March 4.

One message he heard repeatedly from lawmakers while campaigning for the seat: “We have to get a handle on the administrative cost issue.” So that, he said, will be one of his priorities.

And he wouldn’t mind finishing that one paper he still owes the U from 20 years ago. If he can squeeze it in.

“When you care about stuff, you find the time,” he said.

 

maura.lerner@startribune.com