Retiring Minnesota congressman and longtime trustee to address St. Thomas graduates Dec. 19

U.S. Congressman Jim Ramstad, who will retire at the completion of his term this month after 18 years representing Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District, and Burton Cohen, founder of MSP Communications and a longtime member of the University of St. Thomas Board of Trustees, will address graduating students and their guests at St. Thomas’ winter commencement ceremonies on Friday, Dec. 19.

The university will award 248 bachelor’s degrees at the undergraduate commencement exercises and 524 graduate degrees (master’s, doctoral and education specialist) at the graduate ceremonies. A Commencement Mass for graduates and their families will precede commencement ceremonies; the Mass begins at 1:30 p.m. in the university’s Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas.

At undergraduate ceremonies: A prominent Twin Cities journalist and a publisher for more than 30 years, Cohen will be the speaker at the university’s undergraduate commencement ceremonies at 3 p.m. in Coughlan Field House.

Burt Cohen
Photo: MSP Communications

Cohen founded MSP Communications in 1978 and is former owner and publisher of Mpls. St. Paul magazine, Twin Cities Business Monthly and several other publications. Earlier he was president of Modern Medicine Publications, a group of international medical and dental journals. When Modern Medicine was sold, he continued to lead the publishing group, first for The New York Times and later for Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Cohen is active in numerous activities and serves on the boards of the Medica Foundation, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the University of Minnesota Foundation, Minnesota Opera, Minnesota Zoo Foundation, Minneapolis Foundation and Temple Israel. A 1955 University of Minnesota alumnus, he joined the St. Thomas Board of Trustees in 1999 after serving since 1994 on the board of the Catholic Digest, which was the largest paid-circulation Catholic magazine in the country when St. Thomas sold it in 2001.

At graduate ceremonies: Ramstad, a Republican who may best be remembered for his bipartisan voting record in his nine terms in Congress, will speak at graduate commencement ceremonies at 7 p.m. in Coughlan Field House on the university’s St. Paul campus.

U.S. Congressman
Jim Ramstad

Ramstad, who is being considered for a top-level drug-policy position in the Obama administration, championed Paul Wellstone’s mental health parity legislation, which President Bush signed into law last month. The Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 gives people with mental illness or chemical addiction the same access to insurance and treatment as those with physical ailments.

Among Ramstad’s other legislative achievements was the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children Act of 1994, which requires registration by convicted child molesters after their release. He also backed climate change legislation, measures to tighten auto fuel efficiency standards and the Clinton administration’s "roadless rule" protecting national forests.

"Ramstad is the end of an era," Minnesota Republican political strategist Sarah Janecek recently told the Star Tribune. "He’s a fiscally responsible, socially moderate conservative."