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University of Minnesota's longest-serving regent Simmons to leave U board

ST. PAUL—The University of Minnesota's longest-serving member of the Board of Regents is leaving her post this spring.

Patricia Simmons, a retired Rochester physician, said Wednesday, March 7, that she wants to free up time to spend traveling and with family. She's been on the board since 2003.

"This feels like the right time to refresh myself, refresh the board," she said.

Lawmakers will appoint a replacement for the unpaid position to serve through 2021.

The Legislature elected Simmons in 2015 to a third consecutive six-year term representing the state's 1st Congressional District. Regents typically limit themselves to two terms, but she joined the race after one of two finalists dropped out late in the process.

Simmons said she stepped in in 2015 to ensure the board would have a member with academic medical experience.

Before deciding to resign, she said, she spoke with legislative leaders about the importance of replacing her with someone similarly qualified.

"There are people with academic medical experience available, interested and willing to serve," she said. "I would not leave without knowing we had the very real opportunity to put a highly qualified person there."

One of just three women on the 12-person board, Simmons headed the search advisory committee that picked Eric Kaler as university president in 2010. She said hearing from Minnesotans about what they wanted from the U's next leader was the highlight of her time on the board.

Regents also established a branch campus in her hometown of Rochester during her tenure.

In recent years, Simmons led the board's efforts to link with Fairview Health Services on the M Health partnership and a planned merger that never came together.

In a news release, board chairman David McMillan said Simmons brought "an invaluable perspective about board governance, history, the health sciences and the University's impact on Minnesota that will be hard to replace."