Bess remembrance is Aug. 26
Saturday, August 15, 2009
The former president who helped transform study-abroad opportunities and expanded the university’s commitment to multiculturalism will be remembered Aug. 26 in Ritsche Auditorium.
View the event flyer (PDF) to learn more about the 4 p.m. memorial gathering for Robert O. Bess.
Bess, who died July 20 at his home in California, was interim president from 1992-95.
Bess was appointed in 1992 to a two-year term, following the resignation of President Brendan McDonald. When a 1994 search for a new president failed to produce a clear choice, Bess accepted the call to serve another year.
He conferred St. Cloud State University’s first honorary doctorate on 90-year-old Minnesota labor leader and civil rights activist Nellie Stone Johnson.
Bess said Johnson's 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.
He was the driving force behind fundraising campaign to renovate Stewart Hall Auditorium with new seats, sound system and other improvements.
He was instrumental in establishing the university's American Indian Center.
Bess led seven faculty and staff on a trip to South Africa in 1995, paving the way for the educational exchanges that today link St. Cloud State to that nation, including a semester program with Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth.
With the hiring of President Bruce Grube, Bess left to serve from 1996-98 as interim vice chancellor at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs.
But he remained a supporter of St. Cloud State, returning in 2008 to witness the inauguration of President Earl H. Potter III and establishing the Robert O. Bess Fellowship at the St. Cloud State University Foundation. The fellowship supports study in South Africa by multicultural students.
In retirement he was active in the arts in the Sacramento area and participated in campus life at California State University, Sacramento, one of several campuses he served during 33 years in the California State University system.
Robert Oliver Bess was born in 1934 to a shipyard worker and homemaker in Weymouth, Mass.
He earned a bachelor's degree in education and psychology at Tufts University, Boston, Mass., and a master's degree in higher education administration Columbia University, New York City. He received a doctorate in higher education and comparative education from the University of Southern California in 1972.