Darrin Rosha, a lawyer from Maple Plain, was the surprise winner of a hotly contested seat on the University of Minnesota Board of Regents Wednesday night.

Rosha, 46, edged out three other candidates — including former U.S. Rep. Bill Luther — when the votes were cast at a special joint session of the Legislature.

For Rosha, who had failed to make the list of finalists, it won’t be his first time on the board. He served as a student representative from 1989 to 1995, when he was an undergraduate and law student.

The lawmakers passed over the two finalists chosen by a joint legislative committee — Dr. Michael Belzer and Paula Prahl — and Luther, who was another last-minute entry, to give the seat to Rosha, who was nominated shortly before voting began.

In all, the Legislature voted to fill five vacancies on the 12-member board of regents, which oversees the university.

Rosha will serve the remaining two-year term of the late regent David Larson, who died in October. The seat represents the Third Congressional District.

In the First Congressional District, another contested race, Dr. Patricia Simmons of Rochester won a rare third term on the board of regents in a close vote over Randy Simonson of Worthington.

Simmons, 63, a retired Mayo Clinic physician, had announced that she was retiring from the board, but recently stepped back into the race after another finalist, Dr. Claire Bender, dropped out.

The lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to reappoint Richard Beeson Jr., a St. Paul banker who is the current chair of the board, to a second term.

They also approved two newcomers: Thomas Anderson, a funeral director from Alexandria, and Michael Hsu, of Blaine, president of TeeMaster Corp.

A priority for Anderson, 57, a U graduate in mortuary science, is making college affordable. “I don’t want to see our children have to pay too high a tuition,” he said. “I have college-age kids myself.”

Hsu, 49, is another U alum, with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. “I want the U to be as strong and as valuable to the state as possible,” he said. He said his father, a Chinese immigrant, came to study at the U in the 1940s, and stayed after the Communist revolution.

“I’m very aware that all the great things in life that I’ve been able to enjoy were because my father picked Minnesota as the school [where] he wanted to study,” Hsu said. He is an advocate of “affordability, accessibility, diversity.”