Thursday, March 21, 2013

On the Record with Michael T. Benson

The following is the result of a few days worth of research on EKU Presidential finalist Michael T. Benson. All of the material contained herein is cited or linked to the original source for those who may wish to dig a bit deeper. For example, we hear that his dissertation is making the rounds through the Department of Government. It is our hope that readers will gain a sense of the candidate, his career path, ideas, skills, vision, and ability to communicate as a scholar and as a university leader. What issues did the candidate face during his career and how did he respond to them? How do his responses match EKU Sensibilities?
Background information on Gregg Lassen and Alan T. Shao will follow in the coming days. We encourage readers on the EKU campus to look over the material as background, and then go meet the candidate and decide for yourself if we have found the right fit for EKU.

The data is presented in chronological order from earliest to most recent so keep scrolling ‘cause we found over 80 pages of material, edited down.

To steal from the Desert Morning News, the record on Benson presents an ambitious, energetic, piano-playing, globe-trotting, Sen. Orrin Hatch interning, BYU and Oxford-educated (at age 27), low-handicap-golfing, speeding ticket-collecting, out-of-the-box-thinking, marathon-running, Utah Appellate Court-nominating, Harlem-shaking, Huffington Post-blogging, Eagle Scout, author, and regional university president, who is the religiously tolerant grandson of the late LDS Church (Mormon) President Ezra Taft Benson.

We start in 1997.

Scholar presents convincing case for Truman as one befriending Israel
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Sunday, September 28, 1997
Author: Dennis Lythgoe, Staff Writer
In response to the generally accepted scholarly view that Harry Truman recognized the new state of Israel in 1948 for politically expedient reasons, such as his desire to attract Jewish votes and money, Michael Benson has written an interesting and important new book. Benson, whose doctorate is from Oxford University in modern Middle Eastern history, has long been fascinated by the religious motivations of American presidents.

While at Oxford, his research led to a dissertation on Harry Truman's decision to recognize Israel, which in book form has become a welcome revisionist approach to Truman historiography.

It is Benson's articulate thesis that Truman's moral and religious background, lead him to recognize Israel, in spite of heavy opposition by his own State Department, simply because he thought it was the right thing to do. ..

Unlike Clinton, Truman put principles first
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Sunday, March 15, 1998
Author: Michael T. Benson
Secretary of State Dean Acheson was everything Harry S. Truman was not. With his well-manicured mustache and his penchant for hand-tailored British suits, Acheson was a graduate of Groton, Yale and Harvard Law. Conversely, Truman, the failed Midwestern haberdasher, was the only American president of this century who did not graduate from college. If Acheson embodied the consummate State Department ``striped-pants'' boy, Truman represented the quintessential Missouri farm kid.

Notwithstanding such disparity in backgrounds, Acheson respected Truman for his ability to inspire affection and devotion in those with whom he worked and even dedicated his Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir, ``Present at the Creation'' ``To Harry S. Truman - The Captain With the Mighty Heart.''

In describing Truman and his unique leadership style, Acheson would often quote the following lines from Henry V:

``And every wretch pining and pale before/Beholding him, plucks, comfort from his looks/His liberal eye doth give to every one/A little touch of Harry in the night.''

Such accolades are seldom heard emanating from Foggy Bottom, Capitol FEB, or even from the West Wing, when America's chief executive is mentioned today. Even Professor William Leuchtenburg, a prominent historian and two-time Clinton voter, recently confessed to Albert Hunt, ``I think the president has behaved abominably.'' While last Thursday's Wall Street Journal/NBC Poll found Americans split in attitudes on presidential private lives and their public roles, a jaded electorate certainly contrasts Bill Clinton with the ``Give 'em hell, Harry'' Truman of the 1948 campaign who once confessed, ``I have never deliberately given anybody hell. I just tell the truth on the opposition - and they think it's hell.''

The 50th anniversary of Truman's assumption of office gave millions of Americans the chance to question whether he was right on such watershed decisions as the atomic bomb or Korea or the Middle East. Eric Sevareid, an eyewitness to the momentous events of the late 1940s and '50s and the president's role in helping to shape them, recalled that whatever anyone might think of his executive judgments, Truman reminds people what a man in the Oval Office ought to be like. ``It's character, just character. He stands like a rock in memory now.''

Gen. George Marshall, ``the greatest of the great,'' as Truman called him, gave one of the most moving tributes to Truman just two days before the two men nearly had a falling out over the president's Palestine policy in May 1949. Their bitter disagreements over this particular issue notwithstanding, Gen. Marshall offered the following testimonial at a private birthday party held in Truman's honor: ``The full stature of this man will only be proven by history, but I want to say here and now that there has never been a decision made under this man's administration . . . that has not been in the best interest of this country. It is not the courage of these decisions that will live, but the integrity of the man.''

In trying to explain President Clinton's favorable job rating in the face of continuing controversy that daily envelopes the White House, Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution maintains that ``right from the beginning, Americans knew who he was and what they were getting.'' Indeed, we did know what we were getting, and the stark distinctions between Bill Clinton and Harry Truman are readily apparent.

Truman, who held principle over expediency and valued integrity above popularity, once told an aide, ``Don't worry about criticism. If you do the right thing, history will take care of it.'' While Bill Clinton concerns himself with his place in history, a shift in cultural mores as revealed in the latest poll does not discount the fact that character always has and always will count heavily in assessing American presidents.

Truman helped Israel survive its infancy
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Tuesday, May 26, 1998
Author: Michael T. Benson
Fifty years ago on May 14, President Harry S. Truman extended de facto recognition to the state of Israel, a mere 11 minutes after David Ben-Gurion declared the new Jewish nation's independence. Truman's historic act, diametrically opposite the advice of his most trusted foreign policy advisers, astonished many, gratified some, but most importantly, in his own words, ``righted an historic wrong.''

In the half century since, Truman has become widely recognized as the one American who did more to assist in the creation of Israel than any other individual. As Trygve Lie, first Secretary General of the United Nations, stated, ``I think we can safely say that if there had been no Harry Truman, there would be no Israel today.''

Critics of Truman's immediate act of recognition have accused the president of everything from crudely pandering to American Jews for money and votes to providing the classic case of the determination of American foreign policy by domestic political considerations. A careful examination of the historical record, however, reveals just the opposite.

Growing up in Independence, Mo., young Harry's poor eyesight kept him out of a good many games - as a result, reading history became his most preferred activity. One of his favorite books was the Bible. Truman's knowledge of the Bible and his conversance with the history of the Middle East played a significant part in the formulation of his own presidential policy toward Palestine.

To be sure, Truman was heavily influenced by a biblical upbringing laden with Judeo-Christian themes and by a Baptist training that stressed a Jewish return to Zion. Truman's favorite psalm, number 137, is illustrative of this background: ``By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.''

Like Harry Truman, Americans in 1948 and now - schooled in the Bible and in their own history - readily see the birth of modern Israel as a new Exodus and a return to the Promised Land. As a natural result, they find it much easier to empathize with a people who appear to be repeating the experience of America's Pilgrim fathers and the pioneers.

Despite overwhelming public opinion in the mid-1940s in favor of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, such a proposition posed substantial security risks to a U.S. State Department bent on ``containing''' Soviet expansion in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. All of Truman's foreign policy advisers were dead set in their opposition to the president's support of a Jewish state. The strongest opponent to Truman was, ironically, the man whom the president admired most and even called ``the greatest living American'' - Gen. George C. Marshall.

Two days before Israel's declaration of independence, Marshall made an ominous threat to publicly oppose the president on this issue. While such opposition would have been catastrophic for the Truman administration, the president nevertheless granted immediate recognition to Israel. He thus fulfilled a pledge made to the famed Zionist leader, Chaim Weizmann, just a few weeks earlier, ``You can bank on us. I am for partition.''

Truman's steadfast support of Zionist aims is all the more astonishing when one considers the tension-packed months of early 1948. Indeed, the Palestine predicament was hardly the only pressing International concern at the time. In March, Truman went before Congress and asked for a reinstatement of the draft as talk of a potential third global conflict dominated the news. The New York Times compared Russia's imperialistic mission to Hitler's quest for world domination in 1939. Even Sir Winston Churchill claimed he could see the ``menace of war rolling toward the West.''

Notwithstanding the pressures he faced from nearly every direction, Truman held his ground and maintained that the Palestine question was an exceptional problem of a peculiar people and a unique land. When James Forrestal, then secretary of the Navy, reminded Truman of the critical need for Arab oil and the possibility of losing access to Middle Eastern reserves if America backed the Jewish state, the president asserted that he would handle the situation based on justice - not oil.

The supreme virtue of Harry S. Truman was his readiness - time and again - to risk both his popular standing as well as his political career by making unpopular decisions that were in the long-range interests of the country. ``One of the proudest moments of my life,'' is how President Truman described his courageous decision to recognize the State of Israel five decades ago.

Truman once remarked that it is impossible for a public man to constantly worry about what history and future generations will say about the decisions he has to make. Rather, ``he must live in the present, do what he thinks is right at the time, and history will take care of it.'' Fifty years have certainly proven that Harry Truman was right.
And a few book reviews. No raves.
Author(s):  Michael B. Bishku
Source:  International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 31, No. 3  (Aug., 1999), pp. 488-489
Publisher(s): Cambridge University Press
Stable URL:

Title:  A Morality Tale?
Author(s):  Kathleen Christison
Source:  Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 28, No. 1  (Autumn, 1998), pp. 107-108
Publisher(s): University of California Press on behalf of the Institute for Palestine Studies
Stable URL:

Author(s):  David Waldner
Source:  Middle East Studies Association Bulletin, Vol. 33, No. 2  (Winter 1999), pp. 238-239
Publisher(s): Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA)
Stable URL:
U. Assistant, 36, To Head Snow - Middle East expert Benson will be state's youngest college president...
Salt Lake Tribune, The (UT) - Friday, October 19, 2001

EPHRAIM -- Delayed by road construction and an encounter with police, Michael T. Benson arrived a few minutes late to the announcement of his appointment as Snow College's new president.

But Benson, who at age 36 ranks as the youngest president in Utah's 10-campus system,

appeared no worse for the wear.

"I have a very good feeling about Snow and Sanpete County," Benson dead-panned before a packed auditorium inside the college's administration building. "I ended up getting a warning" instead of a speeding ticket.

Benson, currently special assistant to University of Utah President Bernie Machen, was officially named Snow's president Thursday during a regents' meeting held at the college's Ephraim campus.

But he was actually selected 24 hours earlier from among five finalists who spent Wednesday in closed-door interviews with regents in Salt Lake City.

In fact, rumors of Benson's appointment reached Ephraim hours before he did.

Benson apparently shared the news early Thursday with students in his political science class at the U. Minutes later one of the students called a relative in Ephraim, said Beth Anne Erickson, who works for Snow's registration office.

Benson's name then spread like wildfire across the small campus, which enrolls about 3,400 students, Erickson said. "You can't get away [with anything in] Ephraim."

Benson's comparatively young age didn't escape notice, either.

"Oh yeah, he's young," said Erickson.

But with youth comes exuberance, which should serve him well, she said. "Snow is ripe for fresh leadership."

Gerhard Bolli, a senior-level administrator at Snow in charge of grants and contracts said, "We need someone with energy to get this place moving."

But don't let Benson's age fool you, said Charlie Johnson, regents chairman. He has "done things academically that many of us strive to do in a lifetime."

An expert on Middle Eastern history, Benson has written several journal articles and the critically acclaimed book, Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel.

Benson did his undergraduate work in political science at Brigham Young University and received his Ph.D. in modern Middle Eastern History at St. Anthony's College in Oxford, England.

As Machen's right-hand man for the past two years, Benson gained experience working with the university's many constituent groups and wooing power brokers, Johnson said.

Johnson didn't mention it, but Benson also has deep Utah roots. He is the grandson of former LDS Church President Ezra Taft Benson, is the younger brother of political cartoonist Steve Benson and is related by marriage to current church President Gordon Hinckley.

"He also happens to know how to fund raise," Johnson said.

Prior to being named to Machen's cabinet, Benson worked for three years raising money for the U. "He's one of the best," Johnson said. "This guy is tenacious."

Benson said it is too early to outline his vision for the college, but he made two promises.

"I will listen and I will work very very hard," he said. "With enthusiasm, vision and tons of hard work I promise to work on your behalf and along the way we'll have a lot of fun together."

Benson, who currently lives in Salt Lake City with his wife, Celia, and two children, will take office Jan. 1. ..

New Snow president is called 'a good fit for the community' - Regents say he'll lead well and be good for town, too
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Monday, October 22, 2001
Author: Jeffrey P. Haney Deseret News staff writer
Michael T. Benson has done his grandfather proud.

A descendant of Ezra Taft Benson, former president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is the new president of Snow College, a small central Utah school that was founded in 1888 as part of the church's educational system.

"Well, you know how he felt about pride -- so it's probably pretty guarded," quipped Benson, who on Thursday became the youngest president of a Utah college or university.

He's Snow College's greatest 'cheerleader' - Michael T. Benson , 36, took circuitous route to become Utah's youngest college president
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Saturday, November 10, 2001
Author: Sarah Jane Weaver Church News staff writer
Give Michael T. Benson five minutes and he will talk about Snow College in Ephraim, Utah.

He knows the school's pioneer history. He's memorized statistics. He's drawing badgers, Snow's mascot, for his children.

To say he's enthusiastic is an understatement.

"You are not going to find a bigger proponent or cheerleader for Snow College," said Brother Benson, who was named president of the two-year institution Oct. 18.

After all, it's his enthusiasm -- coupled with his willingness to work hard and his desire to be part of a small community -- that set the Church member apart from other candidates with more experience. At age 36, he is now the youngest president of any Utah college or university; he was selected for the post by Utah's board of regents from a field of 79 candidates...

 [W]hile attending BYU he learned of the school's Jerusalem Center. He sold his car, applied for a scholarship and set out for Israel. Once there, he found himself consumed with all things Middle Eastern.

When he returned to BYU he changed his major to Middle Eastern studies. He went on to earn a doctorate in Middle Eastern history at St. Anthony's College at Oxford and wrote the acclaimed book, Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel.

After graduating in 1995, he began searching for employment. "Here I am a newly admitted Oxford doctor and I could not find a job anywhere," he recalled. "So I went to work with my cousin roofing houses."

While roofing houses he learned of and received a position in the University of Utah development office. Soon he was serving as special assistant to the president and secretary to the university. He also worked as a consulting historian to the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and an academic adviser essayist at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, taught in the University of Utah political science department, and helped establish the Neal A. Maxwell Presidential Endowed Chair...

As a walk-on basketball player at BYU, Michael Benson played with the [junior varsity] team. "I was lucky if I got in," he said...

Just ask him the benefits to the two-year school and he'll talk for hours. "Sometimes I lie awake at night and wonder what I have gotten myself into," he said. "Snow has a very exciting future."

Budget cuts foster myriad sacrifices at Snow College
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Sunday, May 12, 2002
Author: Michael T. Benson
The legislative cuts necessitated by revenue shortfalls this year have required higher education officials to take drastic action to keep their respective institutions operating. As programs have been cut, reductions-in-force implemented and tuitions increased, I am reminded of the English poet, Christopher Anstey, who once stated: "Drastic measures is Latin for a whopping."

Each campus has had to endure its own "whopping," but the manner in which Snow College has undergone its beating is certainly worth communicating. In doing so, my hope is that members of the state Legislature will recognize what Snow College faculty and staff are willing to do in order to ensure both access to and deliverance of an absolutely superb two-year educational experience. Their willingness to collectively sacrifice on behalf of Snow College, its students and the institution's future has truly been inspiring.

As one of only three remaining two-year colleges in the state of Utah, Snow has been forced to further refine its academic focus and mission. Our goal is to become the absolute best two-year transfer college in the United States. Next year, Snow College will celebrate its 115th anniversary and has the distinction of being the second-oldest higher education institution in the state.

In addition to successfully transferring to all four-year universities in Utah, Snow College graduates have gone on to excel at such notable institutions as Stanford, Cornell, UCLA, Cal-Berkeley, Oberlin, Harvard and Yale. A recent Snow graduate narrowed his choices for advanced training in mechanical engineering to Stanford and MIT, only to choose the latter because it offered a better full-ride scholarship, teaching fellowship and monthly stipend. In terms of athletics when compared to other institutions within the state, Snow College boasts one of the highest numbers of graduates currently playing in the National Football League.

In order to honor this unique history and to ensure our future successes, we have decided to preserve -- at all costs -- the academic core mission of our institution. At the end of this past legislative session, Snow's administrative team placed everything on the table in order to meet our prescribed base-budget cuts.

After weeks of painful deliberation and calculations, positions have been frozen, early retirements offered and accepted, renovation and repair budgets gutted, and two sports -- baseball and softball -- canceled. Still in all, we were tens of thousands of dollars short toward our mandated-cuts goal. As an institution with 80.5 percent of our budget tied to salary and benefits, we decided to propose a campuswide base salary reduction plan, calculated proportionally to the amount of money each employee makes. The administration has taken the largest percentage cut, those on the opposite end of the salary scale the smallest.

Initial reaction to our salary-reduction plan was, understandably, mixed. Some one-income staff and faculty families were quite concerned about making ends meet in these challenging economic times. Others asked if more areas could be targeted for reductions or positions completely eliminated. Still others recognized the unique opportunity to work at a place like Snow College and offered more of their salary to the cause. One staff member e-mailed me the following: "If it should be necessary, I would be happy to contribute more of my salary for the 2002-03 year in order to help in this financially-critical time. I share in the good of working at Snow and feel I should also share in the struggle. We are all in this together." (This came from a resident of Sanpete County, home of the second-lowest median-household income for any county in the state.)

After several campuswide meetings where both faculty and staff could express their feelings and vent at the mandated cuts, the decision was made last Monday to implement our salary-reduction plan. The process of reaching this decision has been painful but necessary. Both faculty and staff accepted this apparently Draconian measure with one condition: we must ALL communicate to the Legislature that these cuts are the proverbial last straw! In the attempt to balance our budget, everything now has been placed on the altar: programs, positions, services, sports, benefits and now -- salaries. During this past legislative session, I recall hearing one representative argue against tapping the state's rainy day fund, stating that these times did not qualify as "rainy days." I wonder if his attitude would have changed had his position been eliminated on one of our campuses or one of his children's sports canceled as a result of budget cuts.

Former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli once observed, "Upon the education of the people of this county the fate of this country depends." The fate of the Utah economy, the well-being of its citizens, and the future of its higher education institutions are inextricably linked to the level of support offered by the state Legislature.

Snow College and its employees have demonstrated this year that they are willing to sacrifice their own livelihood in order to retain the academic focus and quality of one of this state's educational gems. My only hope is that our Legislature will now stand up, take notice and support higher education.

Benson installed as chief at Snow
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Friday, November 8, 2002
Author: Twila Van Leer Deseret News staff writer
EPHRAIM -- Some 10 months after he arrived here to take over a school in the throes of a financial crisis, Michael T. Benson was installed Thursday as president of Snow College.

He used the event as an opportunity to point out fund-raising successes and proposals for new programs that he believes will keep Snow "the best transfer institution in the country."

Benson, at 37 the youngest college president in Utah, took the theme for his talk from the early-20th-century saga of Sir Ernest Shackleton, a British explorer who attempted to reach the South Pole, traversing more than 2,000 miles over uncharted and hostile territory. Though he fell 97 miles short of his objective, Shackleton is a worthy exemplar because he put his men ahead of his ambition and because he had the foresight to set reasonable short-term goals…

There was a down-homey feel about Benson's investiture, in keeping with the small town where college students usually represent half the population. Representatives of students, faculty, staff and alumni groups all welcomed Benson warmly and lauded him for his efforts to become personally acquainted with students. Representing the faculty, Kim Christison did a parody of Shakespeare's well-known soliloquy from "Hamlet," "To be or not to be," complete with skull. Altered for a college president, it read something like ". . . For the budget to be in the black. Ah, there's the rub."

Benson's arrival at Snow last January coincided with a budget crisis that saw damaging cuts to higher education. One of his first acts as president was to cut his own salary by 4 percent and convince other top Snow administrators to do the same rather than making damaging program cuts.

Several of the speakers spoke of Snow's past, which evolved out of the Sanpete Academy that was founded in 1888 by LDS pioneers. Karras told Benson that the selection committee chose him to head Snow College because they believed he had the "leadership and vision to know what Snow is and can become." He then charged the president to fulfill that mandate.

Richfield CATC chief denies wrongdoing
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Wednesday, February 19, 2003
An ongoing investigation of finances on the Richfield campus could deepen the problems, which may go back into the 1980s. A former Snow assistant vice president, Kimball Blackburn, admitted to Snow College President Michael Benson in December 2002 that he had misused college money and he was fired in early January, the report said. He initially made the confession to Holmes a day earlier, according to Holmes' statement, and Holmes then followed through to see that Blackburn went immediately to Benson with the confession.

Embezzlement accusations shock town
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Wednesday, February 19, 2003
In early December, state auditors informed Snow College President Michael Benson they had uncovered irregularities in Richfield campus finances. On Dec. 20, Blackburn, assistant vice president for finance and facilities, confessed to Benson that he had misappropriated funds, according to the audit report. Blackburn was fired Jan. 2.

He had been with the Richfield campus since 1977 when
Sevier Valley Applied Technology Center opened. That institution subsequently became Snow College South and last year was split into two components, Snow College at Richfield and Central Applied Technology College (CATC), a branch of the Utah College of Applied Technology .

The preliminary audit report released Friday, covering July 1, 2000, to Dec. 31, 2002, says Blackburn used a complicated scheme that involved writing
college checks for cash, cashing them, keeping the cash, and then showing the checks as "void" in the college accounting system.

Because Blackburn not only wrote checks but also reconciled the
college checkbook, the practice went undetected. So far, auditors said, they have found $194,000 in voided checks that, in fact, had been cashed.

The audit report said
college employees had reported improprieties as early as 1988, but no action was taken. Now, State Auditor Auston Johnson said, auditors are going back through the books to see if more funds are missing. Snow College officials said privately that they fear the amount discovered to date is the tip of the iceberg. …Following release of the report, Benson and Richard White, executive vice president at the Richfield campus, met with college faculty and staff. "Some folks felt hurt and betrayed," White said.

Middle East in middle Utah
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Tuesday, May 20, 2003
Author: Twila Van Leer Deseret News staff writer
What do a young Latter-day Saint scholar, a New York rabbi and a black Baptist from New Jersey have in common?

Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke. But for the three men involved, the common experience was study at Oxford University in England. And the common thread that they wove into lasting friendships was a shared fascination with Jewish history.

The LDS scholar, Michael T. Benson , now is president of Snow College. The rabbi, Shmuley Boteach, has a New York radio talk show focused on political and social issues, and Cory Booker is an up-and-coming politician, having recently lost a mayoral race in Newark, N.J., by only 4 percentage points. Time Magazine has named Booker one of the 100 most promising young politicians in the country.

Though life has taken them in different directions, the friendships built as members of Oxford's L'Chaim Society have held true, Benson said. All three were officers in the Jewish club at the same time. It was Oxford's second-largest extra-academic program, said Boteach.

"At Oxford, we became friends, and Mike remains one of my best friends," Boteach said in a telephone interview.

In Benson's case, the fascination with Jewish history has evolved into a unique objective for the small Utah college located in the state's agricultural midsection. One of several commitments he made when he was installed as president of Snow was the pursuit of a Jewish studies program…

Utah educators praise race decision
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Tuesday, June 24, 2003
Author: Twila Van Leer Deseret Morning News
Leaders of Utah's colleges and universities say they were vindicated by Monday's Supreme Court ruling affirming the right of colleges and universities to consider diversity in authorizing enrollments…

Some of Utah's smaller colleges, which have less diverse student bodies than the U., also believe the ruling vindicates their efforts to get a greater mix of students. Snow College, which has a "fairly homogenous" student body, courts minorities through a number of avenues, President Michael T. Benson said.

Exposure to peers of different race, cultural and ethnic backgrounds is an important element of higher education, he said. The court decision is not likely to have any major impact at Snow, he said. "We will continue to take all comers."

Ex-Snow official sentenced
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Wednesday, July 16, 2003
Author: Suzanne Dean For the Deseret Morning News
RICHFIELD -- A 6th District judge Tuesday sentenced Kimble Blackburn, a former official at Snow College at Richfield, to up to 15 years in prison and ordered him to pay $424,000 in restitution in what officials said may have been the biggest theft of state funds in Utah history.

Judge David Mower sentenced Blackburn, 48, former assistant vice president for finance and facilities at the Richfield campus, to up to 15 years in prison on 30 second-degree felony counts and up to five years on six third-degree counts.

Those are the maximum sentences under law, but because the sentences on all of the counts will run concurrently, it appeared he could serve a maximum of 15 years.

Pinning down the precise amount of missing money has been difficult, but Snow College President Michael Benson said campus financial officials and state auditors believe losses come to about $300,000 since 1996...

Snow College President Michael Benson said there is an inherent possibility that someone at a higher educational institution can "do this sort of thing."

But since Blackburn's misappropriations have been uncovered, all Utah colleges have "really started to button down," he said.

Truman's actions speak much louder than his words
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Sunday, July 20, 2003
Author: Michael T. Benson
Much has been made of the discovery of a long-lost diary with the writings of President Harry S. Truman, especially his derogatory musings on Jews. While even the director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial has dismissed Truman's writings as "typical of a sort of cultural anti-Semitism that was common" in the 1940s, a much more important point must be made relative to this finding: There was no other American who did more to assist in the creation of the state of Israel than Harry S. Truman.

In point of fact, Trygve Lie, first secretary-general of the United Nations, stated, "I think we can safely say that if there had been no Harry Truman, there would be no Israel today."

In the rush to label the president's thoughts as evidence of thinly veiled anti-Semitism, one marvels at the lengths to which Truman was willing to risk support within his own administration -- and his own political future -- on behalf of the nascent Jewish state.

In the 55 years since his historic recognition of Israel, critics of Truman's action have accused the president of everything from crudely pandering to American Jews for money and votes to providing the classic case of the determination of American foreign policy by domestic political considerations. A careful examination of the historical record, however, reveals just the opposite.

Despite overwhelming public opinion in the mid-1940s in favor of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, such a proposition posed substantial security risks to a U.S. State Department bent on "containing" Soviet expansion in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. All of Truman's foreign policy advisers, to a man, were dead-set in their opposition to the president's support of a Jewish state. The strongest opponent to Truman was, ironically, the man whom the president admired most and even called "the greatest living American" -- Gen. George C. Marshall.

Two days before Israel's declaration of independence, Marshall made an ominous threat to publicly oppose the president on this issue. While such opposition would have been catastrophic for the Truman administration, the president nevertheless granted immediate recognition to Israel. He thus fulfilled a pledge made to the famed Zionist leader, Dr. Chaim Weizmann, just a few weeks earlier: "You can bank on us. I am for partition."

Truman's recently discovered writings are evidence of his reaction to the overwhelming pressure placed upon the White House, in this instance a response to a phone call from Henry Morgenthau in July 1947. During the period 1947-48, Truman received 48,600 telegrams, 790,575 cards and 81,200 pieces of other mail all urging the White House to support Jewish aims in Palestine -- far and away a record for unsolicited mail for any president until that time. And all these contacts occurred long before mass mailings, phone trees and the sophisticated strategies of modem-day political action committees.

Truman's home of Independence, Mo., was very much a frontier town, and one in which progressive attitudes toward ethnic minorities -- African-Americans and Jews included -- were noticeably absent. Truman's own mother-in-law refused to allow one of the president's closest friends and business partners, Eddie Jacobsen, into her home because he was a Jew. It is a matter of record that Truman made disparaging comments about African-Americans, yet he owns the distinction of desegregating the armed services, something which led Strom Thurmond to bolt the Democratic Party and form the Dixiecrats.

The supreme virtue of Harry S. Truman was his readiness -- time and again -- to risk both his popular standing as well as his political career by making unpopular decisions that were in the long-range interests of the country. "One of the proudest moments of my life," is how President Truman described his decision to recognize the state of Israel over five decades ago. The proof of Truman's core values -- and his unyielding support of a Jewish State -- is in the proverbial pudding of his courageous actions.

Truman once remarked that it is impossible for a public man to constantly worry about what history and future generations will say about the decisions he has to make or what personal writings might reveal. Rather, "He must live in the present, do what he thinks is right at the time, and history will take care of it." As it relates to his support of the Jewish state, 55 years have certainly proven that Harry Truman was right.

Facts wrong about Snow
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Thursday, August 7, 2003
Saturday's edition of the Deseret Morning News included its winners and losers section with the following report on recent findings at Salt Lake Community College : "This comes on the heels of an audit that showed Snow College officials misappropriated more than $300,000 in funds over recent years."

Please allow me to make several clarifications to this misstatement:

First, as uncovered by the Office of the State Auditor, this misappropriation and its accompanying scheme was the work of one individual, Kimble Blackburn, who was recently convicted on 36 felony counts and sentenced to 1-15 years on each count. The auditors' findings, in addition to our own internal investigation, revealed that no other person was involved. To state that " Snow College officials misappropriated" this money is both damaging and untrue.

Second, Blackburn's embezzlement scheme far predated Snow College 's involvement with the campus in Richfield and began during the tenure of Sevier Valley Applied Technology Center .

Third, Snow College states emphatically and unequivocally that those who engage in this type of illegal action will be terminated by the institution and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Thank you for your assistance in clarifying what has been a terribly damaging situation with all its accompanying negative press coverage.

Michael T. Benson

President, Snow College


State of the State
Salt Lake Tribune, The (UT) - Sunday, August 17, 2003
Author: The Salt Lake Tribune - SANPETE
The president of Snow College has proposed building a joint city-county library on the southwest corner of the Snow campus in Ephraim.

Snow President Michael Benson said the facility would be about 96,000 square feet and cost about $20 million.

A third of the structure would contain college classrooms.

Ephraim officials have meanwhile been discussing what to do about the century-old city library on Main Street, which is in need of repairs.

Benson noted that money is tight, and new classroom buildings are not a high priority with the Legislature. But a partnership with the city could bring extra credit for non-legislative funding, and rural development grants might be available.

Safeguards ordered for higher-ed accounts
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Sunday, August 24, 2003
Author: Twila Van Leer Deseret Morning News
OREM -- Determined that there will be no repeats of "Utah's Enron" -- the embezzlement by a college official of up to $300,000 from Richfield programs now associated with Snow College -- the State Board of Regents has initiated a number of reforms in auditing processes throughout the Utah System of Higher Education. …

Attention was focused on institutional audits when it was discovered that Kimble Blackburn, an official in an applied technology center that evolved into a Richfield campus of Snow College, had siphoned off what is now estimated at $300,000 over a period of several years by falsifying documents and manipulating accounts. Blackburn was recently tried and found guilty on 36 felony counts. He was sentenced to one to 15 years on each charge, to run concurrently, and was ordered to pay the $110,000 cost of the investigation and $156,000 in restitution, said Snow College president Michael Benson .

Seeking donations: Nearly every area of higher ed relies on gifts
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Tuesday, November 18, 2003
Author: Stephen Speckman Deseret Morning News
Where would higher education be without donations? …

Utah's 10 public colleges and universities are looking at more than $40 million in budget shortfalls because the state hasn't been funding student growth, which has repercussions throughout a school's budget.

Time to hit the street, literally.

At Snow College, for example, President Michael Benson ran a marathon to raise $50,000 to go toward scholarships and to fix a broken scoreboard and sound system.

That's a bit extreme.

Utahns should invest in higher education
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Monday, December 29, 2003
Author: Michael T. Benson
Looked to as the technology maven of the new economy, Bill Gates was recently asked what the single most important thing his home state of Washington could do to assure its economic future. Gates' response: "Support your local university." Such advice underlies this irrefutable truth: Investing in education is the wisest course any state can pursue because brains are now our most important natural resource.

Utah's state Legislature is on the eve of reconvening and, during the course of the 2004 session, will consider what investment it will make in Utah's universities and colleges. While budget forecasts are suggesting that, for the first time in years, a surplus may greet this coming session rather than a deficit, difficult decisions are yet to be made relative to who gets how much. Now, more than ever, our universities and colleges are in dire need of additional legislative support as we produce graduates who are better prepared to compete in today's ever-demanding global job market.

Some states have taken Gates' advice. The example of Arizona is very instructive. Despite lean budgets and pressing needs, Arizona's legislature voted last year to invest more than $400 million in biotech research labs and facilities, not only at the state's Carnegie I Research Institutions -- Arizona State and the University of Arizona at Tucson -- but also on other campuses throughout the system.

Arizona is not unique. From Alabama and its commitment to a $90 million biomedical research facility at the University of Alabama at Birmingham to Illinois and its $123 million investment in the state's VentureTech Program to North Carolina's staggering $4.5 billion commitment to new buildings and renovations, legislators throughout the country are investing in colleges and universities for the sake of present and future generations. Arizona State University has cited 20 states who have recently invested substantial resources into research space as a strategy for stimulating economic growth. Unfortunately, Utah was not on that list.

But why am I, as president of a small, rural junior college in central Utah, advocating for increased investment into higher education in general and additional dollars for research space in particular? There are many reasons, not the least of which is that Snow College graduates -- just like graduates of other smaller schools within our system -- feed into these programs at our larger campuses throughout the state. More than 70 percent of Snow College graduates leave Ephraim and enroll in four-year programs. The success of our graduates is inextricably linked to the level of support these upper-division and graduate programs receive. Further, there is an interesting link to a college-educated work force and demographic trends currently unfolding in America. A recent Washington Post story titled "Brain Gain Cities Attract Educated Young" chronicled the challenges cities with the lowest percentage of college graduates -- Cleveland, Detroit, Newark, St. Louis -- face as they lose ambitious, young people with graduate degrees. The cities on the winning end of the talent war -- Seattle, Austin, Atlanta, Boston, San Diego, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.-- have two common denominators: They are in the top 10 for residents with college degrees and have the benefit of a research university in their area.

Now is the time for Utah to invest even more in its institutions of higher education. Daniel Evans and Booth Gardner, both former governors of the state of Washington, are currently urging their state legislatures to consider additional bond capacity of $1.7 billion in order to construct facilities to accommodate 40,000 new students. With language that could be applied to Utah's current situation, these former governors recently wrote: "First, we must be prepared to provide higher education access to the rising tide of high school graduates. Second, the jobs created by this proposal would assist many of our citizens to go back to work. Third, current low interest rates make this an affordable proposition. And finally, we must start reinvesting in our higher education system if we are to retain our status as a progressive and competitive state."

Other states are getting the message and acting upon it. For the sake of our current students and the thousands of projected new students, I implore our Legislature to consider this wisdom from Benjamin Franklin: "An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest."

Universities tell of big cutbacks
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Saturday, January 24, 2004
Author: Stephen Speckman Deseret Morning News
College presidents say they didn't intend to "whine" or "grovel" Thursday in front of the Higher Education Appropriation Subcommittee, but there was plenty of talk about cutbacks and budget shortfalls on campuses. … Snow College President Michael Benson had the unenviable task of eliminating the school's baseball program.

Palestine in 1948 offers cautionary lessons for U.S. in Iraq
Salt Lake Tribune, The (UT) - Sunday, April 25, 2004
Author: Michael Benson
"We decamp ignominiously amid carnage and confusion" were the words Colonial Secretary Leopold Amery used to describe the British departure from Palestine in May 1948.

The current situation in Iraq and the looming June 30 deadline for America's departure point to interesting parallels between Britain's experience in Palestine during the first half of the last century and what the United States faces in the months and years ahead in the Middle East.

Comparing Palestine in 1948 and Iraq in 2004 is instructive. Initially, both Great Britain and the United States deployed liberating armies; upon cessation of "formal combat," occupying forces were then dispatched by both countries.

The British mandate to oversee Palestine came after the Allied forces defeated the Ottoman Turks in World War I. Subsequent to the Allied victory in 1917 (secured through a multinational war effort) the League of Nations carved up pieces of the Middle East and charged England with oversight in Palestine, Transjordan and Egypt.

Much like the situation facing America in Iraq today, the mandate years posed enormous challenges for British occupying forces as they struggled to mollify the indigenous Arab population growing increasingly uneasy with waves of Jewish immigrants.

The results were constant conflicts between Arabs and Jews, terrorist attacks by both sides directed at the British and fewer and fewer resources and personnel at the disposal of the occupying force. England's nadir in the Near East in the 1940s was the bombing of the south wing of the historic King David Hotel, Britain's headquarters in Jerusalem, by a group of Jewish fighters that included future Israeli prime minister and signatory to the Camp David peace accords Menachem Begin.

The explosion killed more than 90 people, including Britons, Arabs and Jews.

Despite England's best intentions, her occupation of Palestine was resented and rebuffed by violent and targeted resistance, particularly in the 1940s. The reaction to America's attempts to democratize the Middle East is not dissimilar.

The question that continues to loom over President Bush's administration is whether or not America has the stomach to battle insurgent groups in order to implement a democratic framework in Iraq.

A quick scan of last weekend's developments is illustrative of the challenges inherent in occupying Iraq today: In addition to trying to calm the anti-American sentiment in Fallujah, discussions focused on the release of hostages being held throughout the country and trying to stem opposition groups led by militant Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

"I don't believe in a cut-and-run philosophy," intoned Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry at a campaign stop last week. Kerry did not spell out what his alternative to such a philosophy was, other than to say that should U.S. generals and other senior officials request more troops on the ground he would favor such a plan.

At last week's press conference, President Bush said he would support a greater military presence in Iraq.

For us to avoid what England experienced over a half century ago certainly requires personnel, materiel and support for those brave men and women sent to the Middle East to meet the challenge. It also requires a long-term commitment from America to be involved in the region well into the future.

That is not to suggest that had these two conditions been present over 50 years ago, England's occupation of Palestine would have met with different results. In point of fact, the Empire was disintegrating from India to Turkey to Greece to the Middle East. The sun had long set on British power post-World War II and England knew it; their only option was to abandon Palestine after the United Nations' partition vote in November 1947. England had neither the desire nor wherewithal to maintain an occupying force in Palestine after 1948.

I do not believe it hyperbole to suggest that a great deal depends on what America chooses to do right now. What happens in Iraq will have implications for the entire region for decades to come. To use the phrase coined by columnist Thomas Friedman, this era in world politics represents a vital "hinge of history."

Sadly, unless some dramatic events transpire between now and the end of June and America chooses to leave Iraq, head of the American occupation, Ambassador L. Paul Bremer could very easily borrow the words of Colonial Secretary Amery spoken less than 600 miles from Baghdad nearly 56 years ago.

I believe those American soldiers, and others from our partner nations, who have fought and died so bravely certainly deserve better.

Benson’s Powerpoint on Harry Truman and Israel from The Truman Library here.

They ride in style, thanks to taxpayers…
Salt Lake Tribune, The (UT) - Saturday, May 15, 2004
Author: Thomas Burr, The Salt Lake Tribune
Copyright 2004, The Salt Lake Tribune

Salt Lake County Auditor Craig Sorensen buys a lot of fuel for his 2003 Ford Expedition, enough that last year he averaged 4.6 miles per gallon. ..

Call it a job perk.

Call it a necessity.

Call it whatever you want -- you're paying for it…

Snow College President Michael Benson , who gets a state vehicle as part of his contract, recently requested to trade his state-owned 2001 Dodge Durango for a used Buick LeSabre from the state fleet.

"Lately," Benson says, "every time I fill up at the pump I just get tremendous pangs of guilt. To drive an SUV in the summer, it's just hard to justify."

U., USU chiefs get bigger raises than their peers
Salt Lake Tribune, The (UT) - Friday, June 4, 2004
Author: Shinika A. Sykes, The Salt Lake Tribune
EPHRAIM -- Like most state employees, Utah's public college and university presidents will get a raise July 1.

But paychecks for the leaders of the two research universities will get a bigger boost than the 2 percent raise that was allocated by the 2004 Legislature, the state Board of Regents announced Thursday. …

* Michael Benson , Snow College, $117,300.

Reagan proved that the words of a president matter
Salt Lake Tribune, The (UT) - Friday, June 11, 2004
Author: Michael T.Benson
As John Winthrop approached the New World aboard the Arabella in 1630, he envisioned a shining "city upon a hill." This was a phrase often employed by the late President Reagan as he endeavored to hoist America out of the malaise into which it had fallen in the late 1970s.

Reagan's passing last Saturday has provided opportunity to reflect on the 40th president's masterful use of the English language to lift and inspire, to cajole and persuade, to transform and transcend.

Reagan's ability to communicate, honed through many years of acting and public speaking on behalf of General Electric and other entities, was immediately tested as he entered the Oval Office in 1981. Declaring that it was now "morning in America," Reagan set out to effect a sea change in the way we viewed ourselves as a nation -- and to radically alter the way the rest of the world saw the United States.

Perhaps more than any other statement or speech, Reagan's remarks to members of the British Parliament on June 8, 1982, defined his approach to the Soviet Union and to the Cold War. This new approach marked a complete departure from previous American policy in international affairs.

After World War II, America set out in its pursuit of a policy of "containment" as defined by George Kennan and others in the Truman administration. At its core, this policy was bent on "hemming in" Soviet expansion proclivities whether it was in Europe or Asia or the Middle East.

Reagan refused to accept containment, advocating rather a wholesale commitment to defeating communism. As he stated: "What I am describing now is a plan and a hope for the long term -- the march of freedom and democracy which will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash heap of history as it has left other tyrannies which stifle the freedom and muzzle the self-expression of the people."

The president concluded that the task he set forth would "long outlive our own generation," but encouraged everyone to move toward a world "in which all people are at last free to determine their own destiny." Reagan's rhetoric soared and set in motion a revolution.

A mere five years later, Reagan again spoke in Europe, this time in front of the famed Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin. His now legendary challenge to Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall" sent shock waves through the continent all the way to Moscow. Recently interviewed about his relationship with Reagan, Gorbachev questioned whether any of the tectonic changes of the 1980s in the geopolitical landscape ever would have happened had it not been for Reagan.

Even those opposite Reagan on countless political issues have conceded his presidency marked a high-water point for America in the final stretch of the 20th century. Arthur Schlesinger Jr., a former aide to President Kennedy, recently observed that "with eloquent words, a genius for simplification and contagious optimism, he set forth the broad direction in which he wanted to move the country and the world."

And E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post -- a paper more at odds with Reagan than not during his two terms in office -- recently commented that three presidents helped define the modern presidency of the past century more than any others: the two Roosevelts and Reagan.

As befits a man commonly referred to as "The Great Communicator," words were sometimes not even needed to convey a principle or feeling. Several associates have recollected the experience of James Baker, Reagan's first chief of staff, entering the Oval Office in shirt sleeves and neatly placing his suit coat on the back of a sofa opposite the president's desk just a few days into Reagan's first term. No words were spoken, no verbal reprimand tendered, but the look Reagan shot Baker told him that the former's respect for the Office of the President demanded certain rules of comportment and decorum.

From that day forward, no one -- not even President Reagan himself -- entered the Oval Office without jacket and tie. Such was the reverence Reagan wished all to show the office looked to as the leader of the free world.

Interestingly enough, Reagan's political hero was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Raised in a staunchly Democratic Irish-American home, Reagan idolized FDR. It is altogether fitting, then, to borrow the words of The New York Times upon Roosevelt's death in 1945 when it predicted that "men will thank God on their knees a hundred years from now" that FDR had been the chief executive to fight Hitler and Tojo.

As presidential historian Michael Beschloss has astutely observed, Americans in 2004 might "now give similar thanks that they twice elected a president who saw the chance to end the Cold War in his own time."

What then is the legacy of the Reagan Revolution?

Of all the tributes heaped upon this son of Illinois, which will rise above the rest? When pressed by one of his very capable speech writers, Peggy Noonan, what he thought the meaning of his presidency was, Reagan reluctantly responded that he "advanced the boundaries of freedom in a world more at peace with itself."

Ousted leader fights on
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Author: Suzanne Dean For the Deseret Morning News
EPHRAIM, Sanpete County -- It's hard to tell what will happen next in the controversy over the impeachment and removal of Snow College's student body president.

Justin Chandler, the deposed president, says he plans to "keep fighting the rest of the school year." If he doesn't, he says, a pattern of administrative meddling in student government won't change. ..

But Miriam Rasmussen, secretary of the Student Senate and spokeswoman for a special impeachment committee that brought charges against Chandler, believes a meeting last Thursday attended by about 300 students cleared the air. ..

Trust and confidence were perhaps the biggest problems, she said. "We had a hard time trusting him because we kept getting two stories from him." …

One time, Rasmussen said, Chandler announced to a group of club leaders that he had permission from Snow President Michael Benson to burn a Dixie State College flag at a pep rally. Later, Benson informed the dean of students that he had not given permission to burn the flag. The rally was held, but no flag was burned. ..

Chandler strongly denied that he had lied or changed his story about the flag burning. He said he had mentioned the idea to Benson. He claimed Benson didn't object, so he assumed he had permission. Later, Chandler said, Benson e-mailed the dean of students saying he had not given permission. After discussion with the dean, Chandler decided against the flag burning.

Throughout the controversy, college President Michael Benson has declined to comment, referring news media inquiries to college spokesman Rick Pike.

"We as an administration are staying out of it because it's a student body matter," Pike said Monday. "But we're encouraged by the productive discourse" that occurred at last week's meeting.

Snow College gets $200,000 for distance education
Salt Lake Tribune, The (UT) - Friday, December 3, 2004
Snow College announced Thursday that it is getting a $200,000 federal appropriation to help the central Utah-based school expand its distance education efforts. The money, from the $338 billion federal appropriation budget passed Nov. 20, will be administered through the proposed joint Snow College-Sanpete County Library.

The $14 million library is on the state's list of top 10 new construction projects.

Utah Sens. Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett were instrumental is directing money to the two-year, state-owned school, according to Snow College President Michael Benson in a statement released Thursday.

"We hope this is phase one of federal support. We will continue to lobby for additional federal support for the library," Benson said. ..

Snow seeks a new stadium
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Sunday, January 16, 2005
Author: Stephen Speckman Deseret Morning News
Snow College's current football stadium may not be long for this world if Snow President Michael Benson can find the funding for a new facility.

Benson told the State Board of Regents Friday he may be able to secure $4 million from one private donor.

Another $1 million would have to be raised through "other donors over the next several months," Benson wrote in a letter to Utah System of Higher Education Commissioner Rich Kendell.

Benson would not publicly identify what he called a "very reliable donor." The donations would be spread over several years.
Tuition's double bite may sting less
Salt Lake Tribune, The (UT) - Saturday, March 5, 2005
Author: Shinika A. Sykes, The Salt Lake Tribune
The one-two punch from twin-pronged tuition hikes may not be as painful this fall for Utah college students.

In fact, most schools are not anticipating double-digit increases at all. …

Snow College President Michael Benson acknowledged that students are not happy about another tuition increase -- no matter how much. But they support spending second-tier dollars to hire three more faculty members as a way of "smoothing out the bottleneck courses" at the two-year college in central Utah, he said.

"Students are happy when they get the courses they need to graduate."

Pro-Christian petition causes stir at Snow College
Salt Lake Tribune, The (UT) - Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Author: Shinika A. Sykes, The Salt Lake Tribune
A letter seeking student support for a petition asking President Bush to appoint a "Christian" to the nation's top court created a stir this week at central Utah's Snow College.

The letter, written on plain paper and signed simply "Student Life," was sent to faculty members. It asked them to alert their students about the petition urging Bush to select a Supreme Court justice with religious convictions.

Carl Sullivan, a language instructor, was bothered by the letter. "There is a history of this kind of thing coming out of that [Student Life] office," he said Tuesday. "There are some elements in this school who want to turn [Snow College] into BYU," he said, referring to the LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University in Provo…

And Michael Benson , president of the state-owned Ephraim college, called the letter the handiwork of one "zealous" student, adding, "No part of it was sanctioned by the college."

Persevere, Snow grads told
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Sunday, May 1, 2005
Author: Sean Hales For the Deseret Morning News
EPHRAIM -- Between humorous quips and quotes from rock 'n' roll musicians, Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. told graduates at Snow College's commencement exercises Saturday to persevere through struggles and to love and respect humankind.

"A commencement speaker is like a corpse at a funeral; your presence is needed, but not much is expected of you," Huntsman said. …

Prior to his address, Huntsman was presented with an honorary doctorate of humane letters by Snow College President Michael Benson .

Benson addressed students to open the ceremony, and also spoke of courage and perseverance. He quoted Winston Churchill: "Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts."

He said students need to make the most of opportunities, and have the courage to face and overcome challenges.

Benson also announced the prestigious Juilliard School of Music in New York has chosen Snow College as its western center for summer music camps.

Junior colleges a great start for athletes
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Friday, December 2, 2005
Author: Michael T. Benson
When Snow College faces Butler Community College of Kansas Saturday in the second annual Zions Bank Top of the Mountains Bowl in Rice-Eccles Stadium, fans will be treated to a level of football that sometimes goes unnoticed and unappreciated by some within our state. But for those familiar with the junior college game in Utah, many recognize the invaluable experience young student athletes gain from beginning their collegiate careers in places like Ephraim or St. George. … In a place as unlikely as Ephraim, one of our slogans is, "Start here, go anywhere." For those student-athletes committed to excelling both athletically and academically at Snow, our track record speaks for itself.

Old Man Winter makes appearance
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Sunday, December 4, 2005
Author: Brad Rock Deseret Morning News
It is 31 degrees in the fourth quarter and snow is falling. Jack Frost is nipping at my nose, which is no surprise considering it's the third of December.

Where else would I be but Rice-Eccles Stadium, watching junior college football? …

"When (Snow) President (Michael) Benson brought up having a bowl game, did I think he was nuts? I did a little bit," said executive director Rick Pike. "But he had a good vision about selling junior college athletes and being in your face about. Hey, these guys can play."

Wiesel's Snow College Lecture: Wrestling with God and questions of foregiveness
Salt Lake Tribune, The (UT) - Thursday, May 25, 2006
Author: Jessica Ravitz The Salt Lake Tribune
EPHRAIM - Cain was forgiven, even protected, after slaying Abel. Moses contended with constant criticism and ended up threatening God. Jews in a Nazi concentration camp put God on trial, found him guilty and then resumed prayers - both to and for God.

These were just some of the thoughts Elie Wiesel, a man who has witnessed the worst of humanity, mentioned when he spoke about forgiveness at Snow College on Monday evening. He was there to deliver the Tanner Lecture on Human Values and receive an honorary doctorate. It was the first time a Nobel laureate visited the rural campus, and his being there was a longtime dream of Snow's President Michael Benson and his dear friend Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. ..

Regents finalize funding priorities
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Sunday, September 17, 2006
Author: Erin Stewart Deseret Morning News
Safer classrooms and space for a growing student nursing population are the top priorities for higher education leaders already looking toward the 2007 legislative session...

Requests by Utah State University, Salt Lake Community College and Snow College also made the top five capital building requests for the regents, who finalized their top funding priorities Friday. ..

Snow College also inched its way onto the priority list, a first since 2001 when the school received funding for its performing arts center. This year's $17.7 million request is for a Snow College/Sanpete County library.

"We have been a team player, but we also feel that we're due. It's our turn," Snow College President president Michael Benson said

5 finalists vying for SUU helm
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Thursday, November 9, 2006
Author: Erin Stewart Deseret Morning News
Five finalists are vying to take the reins of Southern Utah University, including current Snow College President Michael Benson...

The five candidates are:

-- Michael T. Benson, president of Snow College since 2001. Previously, he was the special assistant to the president of the University of Utah.

-- Beverlee J. McClure, cabinet secretary of higher education for New Mexico since 2005. She also served as the president of Clovis Community College in New Mexico from 1999-2005.

-- David E. Payne, provost and vice president of academic affairs at Sam Houston State University in Texas since 1997.

-- Norval F. Pohl, president of the University of North Texas from 2000 until 2006.

-- David L. Soltz, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Central Washington University since 2001.

And this from the Albuquerque BusinessFirst.  …and this.

SUU picks a Utahn to fill president post
Salt Lake Tribune, The (UT) - Saturday, November 11, 2006
Author: Sheena McFarland The Salt Lake Tribune
Michael Benson will leave Snow College to become the 15th president of Southern Utah University effective Jan. 1, the Utah Board of Regents announced Friday.

Benson, 42, was the only Utahn among five finalists to replace Steve Bennion, who retired earlier this year.

However, Commissioner of Higher Education Richard Kendell said Benson's ties to the state "had no bearing on the decision" of the 20-member presidential selection committee made up of regents, trustees, faculty, students, staff and community members.

"He had what the college wanted. In another five years from now, the college will need something else," Kendell said. "But he had the right combination of talents for right now."

The search committee considered 67 candidates from 26 states...
Moving from governing about 2,800 students to nearly 7,000 will provide challenges, he said, but he's excited to draw on his roots as a fund-raiser for the U. of U. to kick off a capital campaign.

He also wants to get a feel for the campus that was the only public university in Utah to show year-over enrollment growth this year.

"We haven't reached the perfect size at SUU, but they've been focused on enrollment, which I'll continue," he said, adding Snow College was another Utah school that showed enrollment growth. "SUU has a very unique niche in the system as a provider of a private liberal arts style education at public education prices."

Fred Esplin, U. vice president for university relations, worked with Benson during his time at the state's largest public university.

"Mike is one of the most gifted people I know in developing and nurturing good relationships," Esplin said. "I'm sure he's going to be very good with working with the Legislature, the community and the supporters of the university." ...

Regents name Benson to head SUU
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Saturday, November 11, 2006
Author: Nancy Perkins Deseret Morning News
CEDAR CITY -- Snow College President Michael T. Benson will take over as the 15th president of Southern Utah University on Jan 1, 2007, the state Board of Regents announced Friday on SUU's Cedar City campus.

The board interviewed Benson and four other finalists for the position on Friday during a marathon executive session. A presidential search committee had recommended the five candidates from a pool of 67 applicants representing 26 states.

Benson and his wife, Debi, were introduced to a gathering of faculty, staff and community leaders at 4:45 p.m. in the Randall L. Jones Theater following his official selection by the board.

"Debi and I had a chance to walk around the campus today, and there's a palpable vibe, a feeling of good things happening, and we want to add to that," Benson said after shaking hands with a long line of well-wishers and old friends.

Getting a new science building funded and constructed at SUU is a top priority, said Benson, adding he is anxious to begin raising funds for the project. Benson's success as a fund-raiser and his experience in leading a higher education institution in a rural setting were noted in a news release following the announcement....

"I am humbled by this opportunity and will work as hard as I can," he said. "I will do my level best to represent you as you would want me to."

Snow College continues to be vital to region
Richfield Reaper, The (UT) - Monday, November 20, 2006
When Michael T. Benson came to Snow College in 2001, he pledged to work toward making it the finest two-year institution in the country.

That is just what he did.

However, he was thrown a curve ball early in his administration by inheriting the Richfield campus, which was the product of years of work by people who wanted to see a higher education facility in Sevier County. The situation was unique in the state - a college with two campuses.

Formerly the Sevier Valley Applied Technology Center, Snow College South was an institution that was facing some challenges. The campus was dealing with the issues of how to integrate a technical school with an academic institution in an experiment that looked like it may fail.

Things had to change, and Benson recognized that the status quo wouldn't serve either campus. Working with the Utah Board of Regents, the state Legislature and others, Benson drafted an operational model for the campus during the summer of 2002. With the new model of operation, came a new name - Snow College Richfield. Benson also appointed Rick White as the executive vice president of the Richfield campus.

Since that time, the road to linking the two schools hasn't been completely smooth. Early in 2003, Snow Richfield was the subject of a huge financial scandal stemming from embezzlement and mismanagement of funds by an administrator over the span of several years.

Benson, White and many others worked through the challenges and have accomplished the goal of providing a viable, higher education institution to the people of Sevier County.

Benson's efforts have been to the benefit of both campuses as he has pursued financial gifts to build up scholarship funds, endowments and capital facilities. Benson helped raise money for both the performing arts center on the Ephraim campus, as well as the Sevier Valley Center in Richfield.

While it may seem that the big challenges are behind, the future is always in motion.

We wish Benson the best as he moves on to Southern Utah University. However, it is now time to start looking for Snow 's next leader... 

10 Questions for SUU President Michael T. Benson

SUU News January 9, 2007
1. What are you most excited for in coming to SUU?
I'm most excited by the prospects in SUU's future.
Given the recent recognition by U.S. News (ranking in western master's degree-granting institutions), the university's steady increase in enrollment (defying the state trends and being the leading institution in growth for the past three years), the quality of our faculty, staff and campus infrastructure - all these things and more bode for a very positive future for SUU.
I'm most excited about being a part of that future and, hopefully, contributing to the upward trajectory the university is currently following.
2. Where do you see SUU in five years? Ten years?
In five years I see the university nearing the end of the most ambitious capital campaign in its nearly 115-year history.This campaign will focus on all areas on campus - faculty, student scholarships, facilities, the Utah Shakespearen Festival, athletics and more - and I anticipate its effects will be profound and long-lasting.In 10 years, I see the university further distinguishing itself as the best "public-private" institution in the West.
That means students can come to SUU and have the private, liberal-arts college experience one finds at William ' Mary or Oberlin or Bowdoin but that training and education comes at a public university price.
3. What class do you hope to be able to teach?
I've taught Theories of International Relations at BYU, the U.S. Presidency and International Politics at the U of U and American National Government at Snow College. I'm happy to teach any of those courses at SUU or whatever else Dean Decker and to-be Chair Stathis ask me to teach on campus!
4. Do you see a need for a faculty pay raise? If so, what is your plan for helping get one?
Retaining and recruiting the best faculty is one of my top priorities. I intend to look very carefully - along with Provost Harraf and the rest of the administrative team - on how we can raise faculty salaries through a whole variety of means, including a targeted legislative appropriation, tuition increase, budget re-allocation or some other avenue.
Given SUU's recent - and fairly steep - tuition increase I am very reluctant to go that route but I will put everything on the table and see which option is the best.
The faculty need to know that I will be their advocate and will do whatever I can to help them succeed.
5. As you work to raise funds for SUU, where is the balance between state funding and private sector fundraising?
We will continue to work very hard on the state level - as well as at the federal level - to secure government funding for SUU.I  commend Wes Curtis, Greg Stauffer, Dorian Page and many others for their help at the legislature and anticipate a concerted effort from all of us to continue to push the university's agenda forward with help from our local government officials.But to provide that "margin of excellence" that will further distinguish SUU from other institutions, both in the state and throughout the nation, private support is absolutely vital. That's why private fundraising will be one of my major areas of focus at SUU.We were very fortunate to realize some significant private gifts at Snow College during my tenure there - we raised more money in five years than the previous 115 years combined - and that's one reason I believe I was chosen for this opportunity at Southern Utah.A major comprehensive campaign will be announced in the near future that I believe will energize the entire community, both by its scope and ambition but also by its results.
6. During the upcoming legislative session, what do you think the state legislature needs to do for SUU, and for Utah higher education in general?
First and foremost, I believe the State Legislature needs to make higher education a higher priority, much like it has public education and roads and tax cuts. I commend our state representatives for their hard work and commitment to the citizens of this state.
I also believe an investment in higher education pays more dividends than any other investment our state could ever make. What better way to spend tax dollars than in investing in human capital? That's exactly what our higher education institutions do - they invest in and train human capital. As it relates to SUU, I am very supportive of Senator Bill Hickman's institutional priorities legislation, which earmarks an increased appropriation for each school in the state, based on pressing needs and intend to lobby very hard for its passage.I also intend to thank the legislature for its funding of the teacher education facility, while lobbying for funds both for the Utah Shakespearean Festival as well as preparing our case for a new science facility which we hope to get funded next year.
7. Are you going to make any major changes to the university right away? What projects do you see yourself working on during your first semester?
I'm not the type to make immediate changes without first taking some time to familiarize myself with campus and trying to get a feel for issues, personnel and priorities.
I've tried to do that the past few weeks while also wrapping up my responsibilities at Snow College.I hope to spend the first semester lobbying very hard at the legislature for higher education in general and for SUU in particular.I also intend to make some fairly significant announcements in the coming weeks about private gifts to the university that will help launch the campaign I've mentioned earlier.My wife, Debi, and I are also expecting a baby boy in March so this semester should be pretty busy!
8. What do you think is the biggest problem facing SUU right now?
My understanding is that the Chinese character for "danger" also means "opportunity."
As an inherently optimistic person, I prefer to see opportunities more than problems and SUU has a whole host of prospects ahead!I intend to focus on further enhancing SUU's niche within the system of higher education in the state as the "public-private" I mentioned earlier, while ensuring we're good neighbors and good community citizens, both locally and regionally.You'll see a great deal of me out in the community trying to do what I believe I'm hard-wired to do: build bridges and partnerships and collaboration.
9. Where did you graduate and what did you study?
My undergraduate degree is from BYU in political science with a double minor in English and history. My doctorate is in Modern Middle Eastern History from Oxford University. I wrote my dissertation - which was published as a book in 1997 - on President Harry S. Truman's decision to recognize the State of Israel in 1948.
10. In what ways do you think you can specifically help SUU? What are your strengths as a university president?
I hope I've outlined some specifics about how I intend to help SUU. My skill set lends itself, I believe, to some of the pressing needs of this institution: namely, private fundraising, helping get the word out about SUU and what a great place it is and further enhancing its stature through increased state and private support. I will also be an incredibly strong student advocate.Anyone who knows me and my career at the U and Snow will tell you that my number one priority is students and their success.I am also keenly aware of the many sacrifices made by this community and its citizens to make SUU what it is today. I also readily recognize the service and commitment of my predecessors and plan to build on the foundation they have put in place. You will undoubtedly find those more talented and work harder for this institution than I will. As the saying goes, "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard."
I see one of my strengths as being the ability to surround myself with very good and able people, giving them the tools to get their jobs done, working very, very hard and - all the while - having a great time doing it!
My wife and I could not be more excited to be here and thank everyone for their most generous and kind welcome. Now let's get after it!

State approves center to help Latino students navigate school system
Salt Lake Tribune, The (UT) - Saturday, January 20, 2007
Author: Roxana Orellana The Salt Lake Tribune
A new academic center will help southern Utah's growing Latino population become more familiar with the American educational system.

The State Board of Regents on Friday gave Southern Utah University permission to create the Hispanic Center for Academic Excellence, the first such center at any state college or university, according to Regent Michael Jensen.

The center will enable the university to offer information on the personal, cultural and economic opportunities offered from kindergarten through college. It will have an outreach component that will do early intervention for Latino students in K-12 schools and get them thinking about college early. Students who go on to college then would continue to receive support from the center.

"This is a very significant step for us," SUU President Michael Benson told the board.

Benson, who is 20 days into his new position as SUU president, said the center is a way to respond to the ever-growing Latino population of the area.

SUU lands $3 million grant to help build life sciences building
Salt Lake Tribune, The (UT) - Friday, February 2, 2007
Author: Sheena McFarland The Salt Lake Tribune
Less than a month into his new job, newly appointed Southern Utah University President Michael Benson has secured a $3 million grant for a new life sciences complex.

The donation comes from a scientist and SUU alumnus who wants to remain anonymous. The 50,000-square-foot building will adjoin the current science building, and it will house the nursing, biology and life sciences program as well as a museum.

"We're basically getting all of our science people in one place," Benson said.

The money may help the science complex move up on the list of priorities for the Legislature, which will have to provide between $17 million and $19 million to complete the project. Benson won't ask for any state funding this year, but does plan to ask for the money to complete the life sciences building in 2008.

He isn't stopping with the complex. He is launching a fundraising campaign with a goal to raise $115 million by the school's 115th anniversary in 2012.

"A major capital campaign is a really great way to get a place moving forward," he said.

Benson added that "one of the primary reasons he was hired" as president was for his ability to raise money. He worked at the University of Utah beginning in 1995 to be a major fundraiser, and he raised a large amount of money in his tenure at Snow College in Ephraim.

"I feel like SUU is poised and ready for this endeavor," he said.

Thinking big: Michael Benson delivers the goods at Snow, SUU
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Sunday, March 25, 2007
Author: Doug Robinson Deseret Morning News
Not everyone was happy when Michael T. Benson -- the ambitious, energetic, piano-playing, globe-trotting, Oxford-educated, low-handicap-golfing, speeding ticket-collecting, marathon-running grandson of the late LDS Church President Ezra Taft Benson -- was appointed president of Southern Utah University.

Much to his dismay, Benson, who collects friends like a guy who just won the lottery, learned that a committee of students had rejected his candidacy 10-0 weeks earlier. Of the five finalists, he was the only one not to receive a single vote.

"Even the Boston Strangler would have received one vote," one SUU administrator quipped to Benson.

With his usual deft touch, Benson met with the 10 students and heard their concerns, then calmly addressed them one by one. Among the complaints: During the interview process he had vowed to raise $115 million in time for the school's 115th anniversary in 2012. The students thought he was campaigning with a promise he couldn't keep.

A couple of weeks later, Benson flew to New York and secured a $3 million donation. Before he had even officially begun his new job, he had collected the biggest donation in school history.

"I decided that if they were going to have a problem with me raising that money, then I'll show them," he says. "They saw me as being arrogant. It was confidence."

Benson earned a reputation for thinking big and delivering the goods during his five years as president of Snow College in Ephraim. He raised more money in those five years than the school raised in its previous 115-year history -- almost $6 million in cash and $4 million in pledges.

This is no small feat at a school that, besides being based in a tiny, isolated town and having relatively few alumni (annual enrollment is about 3,000), alumni loyalties are usually divided between the junior college and the university to which many students subsequently matriculate.

Benson nevertheless made Snow the first Nike-sponsored junior college athletic program in the country.

He made Snow an all-Steinway junior college, securing 32 of the famous pianos for the music department through purchases and donations, some with a price tag of $90,000.

He made Snow the host for the famed Juilliard School of Music's annual summer camp.

He built the Eccles Performing Arts Center.

Told that the project would be scrapped if he didn't raise $2 million in one month, Benson did just that, collecting $1.5 million from the Eccles family and $500,000 from the Horne family in Arizona.

No detail escaped his attention, from conceiving and building a bell tower as a campus landmark to recruiting his older brother Steve, the Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist, to "mean up" the school mascot.

He put artificial turf on the football field.

He ran a marathon to raise $50,000 to pay for a new scoreboard and a charter flight to take the football team to a bowl game.

He lured Roger Reid, the former BYU head coach and NBA assistant, to Snow to become the head basketball coach (then this month hired him at SUU).

He brought Elie Wiesel, the writer and Nobel Peace Prize winner, to speak at the school.

Last month, funding was approved for a new library at Snow -- Benson's long-time pet project.

"Not a week went by without him throwing out yet another big idea for Snow," says Rick Pike, who served as development director at Snow. "The trick was to stay focused long enough to get previous ideas accomplished before moving on to new ones."

After only a few weeks under Benson at SUU, Dean O'Driscoll, the school's marketing director, says, "This is going to be an amazing adventure.

"He is so quick to action. One morning we talked about a problem at 8 a.m., by 9 we were working on it, by 2 we were done with it and moving on to something else. There was no sitting around trying to figure out what to do."

Benson's strength, say those who work with him, is his skill with people. Relaxed, humorous and warm, he moves easily in all circles. He counts among his friends Rhodes scholars, college football players and coaches, governors, rabbis, Nobel prize winners, senators and congressmen, philanthropists, LDS Church leaders and, of course, students.

"It isn't fair," says Benson's long-time friend, Danny Humphrey, who proceeds to list Benson's assets -- handsome, athletic, a scholar, a 7-handicap golfer, a published author, a dapper dresser, a classical pianist, a man of eclectic interests who can converse on anything from the Utah Jazz to food to the politics of the Middle East.

"And he speaks Italian. And he's nice!" says Humphrey. "C'mon, is that fair? When we're in a social setting, I'll say, 'C'mon, annoy me with your well-roundedness.' He has an amazing presence."

Oh, and he looks about 10 years younger than his 42 years.

You could really learn to hate this guy.

During his first day on the job at Snow College, Benson stood on the sidewalk and handed out doughnuts to students. "Hi, I'm the new president, Mike Benson," he said. Finally, one student looked him up and down and sniffed, "President of what?" One man admitted to Benson, "I thought you were the student body president."

Taking the advice of an LDS Church leader, Henry B. Eyring, Benson met with every employee of the college in the employee's office to learn about the person and the school. At larger SUU, he has vowed to meet individually with every vice president, department chair and dean in the school, and he has distributed questionnaires to all employees.

"He's all about relationships," says O'Driscoll.

Pike recalls that Benson greeted almost every student by name as they walked around campus.

"He knew all their names," says Pike. "He knew all the custodians, too, and all about their families. This sounds cliched, but this is a man who treats the janitor the same as the CEO. The grounds people at Snow would go to war for that guy. He loved them."

After hearing the complaints of the SUU student committee, Benson won them over. Several students later approached him to apologize. "There wasn't a student who left the meeting with a concern," says O'Driscoll.

Dialea Adams, Benson's assistant at SUU, has been directed by her new boss to interrupt meetings if necessary when a student comes to his office to see him. "Students have been very impressed with how he responds," she says.

Marlon Snow, a member of the Utah Board of Regents, is effusive in his praise of Benson:

"Everything he does is so positive, and he has such a love for people. I'm impressed with everything about him, and I've never talked to anybody who doesn't have the same impression. I don't think (his career) will end at SUU."

Benson -- with the new job, a second marriage and the recent birth of a son -- is on a roll after surviving the darkest time in his life.

Benson grew up the youngest of six hard-working, talented children born to Mark and Lela Benson. Mark took a degree in educational administration at Stanford but wound up selling cookware and china and dedicating himself to church work. He moved his family from Texas to Indiana to serve as a mission president for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for three years, and then returned to Utah.

There were no real vacations and no extravagances. The family's spare money was used for music lessons and instruments. The four pianos in the family home were rarely quiet.

The children were expected to practice a couple of hours a day or more. Lela once walked into the middle of Michael's eighth-grade basketball practice and took him home to finish piano practice.

Benson, already thinking creatively, resorted to creative ways to escape the piano bench. He persuaded his sister Mary to play the piano for him so he could shoot baskets in the driveway instead. ("And make lots of mistakes so Mom thinks it's me," he directed her.) To maintain the deception, he had to catch each shot before the ball hit the concrete so his mother wouldn't be alerted by the noise. Later, he made recordings of his piano practices and played them while he shot baskets.

"Now I thank my mother for my love of music," says Benson, who still plays regularly, favoring the work of Chopin and Rachmaninov (he once performed with Snow's jazz band). The sound of classical music emanates from his SUU office as he works.

Benson was an able and involved student at Salt Lake City's East High School. He served as president of the a cappella choir, president of the LDS seminary council and co-captain of the school basketball team. He was named East's top senior basketball player.

Well before then he was already engaging, popular and precociously motivated.

Name another fourth-grader who, weary of such nicknames as "Chubby" and "Crisco Kid," took up running to lose weight. ("I remember him as a cute, roly-poly, squishy little boy," says his brother Steve.) By the time he reached high school, he had done more than lose weight with his running.

He ran the half-mile in under 2 minutes for the East High track team and covered a marathon in 2 hours and 41 minutes in the summer. After Benson was spotted running in a BYU P.E. class, the school track coach invited him to join his team (Benson declined).

Instead, Benson played for the BYU junior varsity basketball team for one season. Years later, he lettered for the Oxford basketball team, serving as a player-coach one year.

The young Benson was an achiever in an achievement-oriented family that was headed by Ezra Taft Benson, who in the 1950s served as U.S. secretary of agriculture in the Eisenhower administration, was an LDS general authority and in the 1980s became president of the LDS Church.

"In public, his image was very stern and serious," says Benson. "But in private my grandfather was warm and affable. He had a great sense of humor."

In Benson's house there is a photo of the young Ezra Taft, and visitors frequently note the similarities between him and his grandson. "I think of Michael as having all of my grandfather's best attributes -- intelligence, love of government, public service and love of people," says Benson's sister, Mary Richards.

Benson was going to pursue a career in athletic administration, not academics, but his older brother helped to convince him that his talents could be better used elsewhere.

"I can't see my little brother in a long-term career wearing sweats," Steve told him one day.

Instead, Benson, armed with a doctorate from Oxford University, wound up wearing jeans and roofing houses after returning from three years of study in England.

The CliffNotes of Benson's formative years: Served an LDS Church mission to Italy; attended BYU; sold his car to finance a trip to study in Jerusalem for two semesters; interned for Sen. Orrin Hatch in Washington, D.C.; took a political science degree at BYU; worked full time for Hatch as a junior staff member in Washington; entered Oxford at 27, and earned a doctorate in modern Middle Eastern history.

Along the way he developed a passion for Israel and President Harry S. Truman. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on Truman to support his contention that the president's major role in the creation of Israel was not politically motivated but was based on altruism and religious beliefs.

Benson returned to Israel on a fellowship for further research and turned his dissertation into a book -- "Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel." It made him a sought-after expert on Israel, a country he has visited 16 times.

"While writing that book, I would get the feeling that someone was looking over my shoulder," he says. "I felt an otherworldly presence sometimes when I was writing. My book was the first to take on the premise that Truman did what he did with Israel for political reasons. He did it because it was the moral and right and compassionate thing to do."

After returning to the United States, Benson applied for teaching positions and found none. He roofed houses and sold suits at Nordstrom's for several months before landing a position as a fund-raiser at the University of Utah and later as a special assistant to U. President Bernie Machen and then secretary to the university board of trustees.

"After a few a years I decided I loved campus life and being around bright people and ideas and young people who are in the formative period of their lives," he says. "Acquiring knowledge seemed like a noble, worthy cause."

In 2001, at 36, he was named president of Snow College, making him the youngest college or university president ever in Utah's higher education system.

Benson, who already has served as the president of two schools, authored a book and graduated from BYU and Oxford, seems bound for other things, but if he's thinking that far ahead he's not letting on.

"I believe if you're given a task and you work hard, things will take care of themselves," he says. "If I hadn't produced at Snow, I wouldn't have been considered at SUU. I want to build on what's been done at SUU."

It hasn't all been mortar boards and building projects for Benson. The events of the past few months have marked a comeback from the lowest point in his life.

His marriage to the granddaughter of LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley united two of the greatest names in the church. The 10-year marriage, which produced two children, ended two years ago. That was devastating, Benson says.

"The divorce didn't fit," says Humphrey. "He had painted the perfect picture. This was a big piece of the chain that broke. People who knew him were shocked that this would happen to him. That was not part of the plan."

The situation was exacerbated by the rumor mill.

"When all that went down, there was nasty stuff spread about him, about the kind of father and husband he was, and that his faith in his church was failing," says Pike. "Well, I can tell you that I traveled with this man, and at the end of the day I saw him on his knees praying."

"It's worth noting that he always had (an LDS) temple recommend," says Mary. "He was hurt. He's not a critical person. I will admire him forever for how he handled it gracefully, never bitterly. He didn't respond. He went about conducting himself in an exemplary way. He was restrained and respectful."

Benson met the former Debi Woods on a blind date, and they married last summer. He calls her "the best thing that has happened to me in a long time." They had their first child earlier this month and named him Truman Taft -- after his favorite U.S. president and his grandfather.

"The smile is back on his face," says Marlon Snow.

"I learned a lot of things about myself and my faith," says Benson, "and that's what kept me going. And I leaned a great deal on my family.

"You find out who your friends are," he says.

Says Steve, "There is a certain weight with bearing the name that he does."

Steve Benson should know. Years ago he made a very public and acrimonious departure from his LDS faith and distanced himself from his family, although family members say he has moved closer to them over the years. That, too, wasn't part of the Benson plan.

"It was hard on all of us," says Mary. "We all love Steve; he's our brother."

Mike and Steve have maintained a strong relationship and express mutual admiration and respect for the other.

Says Michael, "I've remained close to him. He's asked us to respect his decision and his agency in life, and I've asked the same of him. We don't attack and criticize the path each of us has chosen.

"In the final analysis, he's my brother, and I'll always love him."

"We've developed a bond that means a lot to both of us," says Steve. "He is very genuine. What you see is what you get. He is a very bright person with a real talent for connecting with people."

Steve Benson recalls staying at his brother's house once when a troubled student showed up at the door late at night. Michael "spent an hour talking to him," says Steve.

On another occasion they were touring the Snow campus together when they spotted a student practicing piano on stage in the Eccles building. After observing for a while, Benson approached the student and introduced himself.

They talked for a while and then Benson sat by her and they played a spontaneous duet.

"He made an immediate connection," says Steve. "Here's the president of the college playing with an undergrad student."

Chase Palmer, a former Snow football player, made a similar connection with Benson. He was planning to attend medical school, but after observing Benson he changed his mind.

"I'd love to eventually follow in his footsteps and be in college administration and become a college president," he says. "It's his influence. He's an example to anyone who comes in contact with him. I've observed his association with students, and his love for what he does and his love for people. It's unmatchable."

Tanya Spencer, a single working mother, praises Benson for helping her to return to school for a degree at Snow. "He would call me and ask, 'What can I do to help?' says Spencer, who now teaches English. "He was my conscience.

"Professors told me he would call and ask how I was doing. Snow is not going to be able to replace him," Spencer says.

Benson works long days but manages to mix fun into the routine. He has taken his two children from his first marriage, Emma and Samuel, to New York to see Broadway. He travels the world, golfs with a vast cross-section of people he has met on the job, and races around the state meeting with legislators and boards and philanthropists, which accounts for his impressive collection of speeding tickets (including one he picked up en route to the press conference in which he was to be named president of Snow).

"He is so on the go, just buzzing from one flower to the next," says Steve.

Considering all his brother has accomplished already, Steve might be right when he says, "I think his star is rising fast."

This from Wikipedia on Steve Benson:
Stephen Reed Benson (born January 2, 1954 in Sacramento, California) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. editorial cartoonist for The Arizona Republic. Benson is the grandson of former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and former LDS Church president Ezra Taft Benson.
Benson attended Brigham Young University, from which he graduated cum laude. He became the cartoonist for the Arizona Republic in 1980.[1] In the late 1980s he was at first a supporter, then a prominent critic, of Evan Mecham, the first Mormon to be elected governor of Arizona. Benson's criticism stirred controversy among Arizona's Mormon population,[2][3] leading some LDS church members to seek the intervention of Benson's grandfather in the matter;[4] Benson was later relieved of his position on a church council.[5][6]
Benson moved to the Tacoma Morning News Tribune in 1990,[7] but then returned to the Arizona Republic in 1991.[1]
In 1993 Benson faced further controversy within the LDS church, when he stated that his grandfather, then nearing his 94th birthday, was suffering from senility that was being concealed by church leadership.[8] Later that year, Benson publicly left the church.[4][9] He has since become a critic of religious belief, appearing at Freedom From Religion Foundation's annual conventions and stating in its paper Freethought Today, "If, as the true believers claim, the word 'gospel' means good news, then the good news for me is that there is no gospel, other than what I can define for myself, by observation and conscience. As a freethinking human being, I have come not to favor or fear religion, but to face and fight it as an impediment to civilized advancement."[10][11]
In 1997, a Benson cartoon used the image of a firefighter carrying a dead child to comment on the death sentence that had just been imposed on Oklahoma City bombing defendant Timothy McVeigh. Benson forcefully defended his work against some readers' contentions that the cartoon was insensitive.[12]
Benson was awarded the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning, was a Pulitzer finalist in 1984, 1989, 1992, and 1994,[13][14] and has received a variety of other awards.[1] He has served as president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists.[15] His cartoons have been collected in a number of books.[1]

Trustee named Snow president
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Friday, July 20, 2007
Author: Suzanne Dean For the Deseret Morning News
EPHRAIM -- Scott Wyatt, an attorney, state legislator and longtime member of the Snow College Board of Trustees, was appointed as Snow's president Thursday. ..

Commissioner of Higher Education Richard Kendall said that often, being president of a small college is primarily a stepping stone to a bigger college presidency. ..

Wyatt's predecessor, Michael Benson , did, in fact, use the Snow College presidency to propel himself on to the helm of Southern Utah University.

Buy SUU license — and park for free
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Saturday, July 28, 2007
CEDAR CITY -- Show your school spirit and get a parking perk.

Utah motorists can buy a Southern Utah University license plate, starting Wednesday. Much of the extra $25 fee will go to the school's scholarship fund.

Any vehicle with a license plate adorned with Thor, the school mascot, will be allowed to park for free on campus.

"You've got a plate, you've got a parking space," President Michael Benson said.

Cedar City Mayor Gerald Sherratt, who was the school's 13th president, received the first license plate. It says "PRES13."

Benson started a Snow College plate when he was president there.

"This is an excellent idea, a stroke of genius," Sherratt said. "This is good advertising for Cedar City, as well."

Taking Snow reins: President aims to raise college to new heights
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Author: Wendy Leonard Deseret Morning News
As an alpine climber, Scott Wyatt has conquered many a mountain on his own. But in his new quest as president of Snow College, he will enlist the help of the entire campus and possibly the community. …

While the objective of Snow's former president, Michael Benson , was to raise money for the school, Winn said Wyatt's focus will most likely be on his own goals for the college, including statewide recognition and a new vision for the future.

2007 fundraising sets record for SUU
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Tuesday, January 22, 2008
CEDAR CITY (AP) -- Southern Utah University set a new fundraising record in 2007 with $15.5 million in pledges in donations.

That amount is almost $6 million more than the school's previous record, university officials said.

"We hope it's the first of many great years ahead," President Michael Benson said. "If we're going to reach our ambitious goals, we'll have to have years like this. People have been very generous. That means everything to a school our size."

Benson said the totals are indicative of a renewed emphasis on fundraising by the school's advancement campaign.

Scholarship policy close to approval
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Saturday, April 19, 2008
Author: Amy K. Stewart Deseret News
The state Board of Regents is one step closer to approving guidelines for a Regents' Scholarship program, which was created through the Legislature's passage of SB180…

Michael Benson , president of Southern Utah University, said he hopes the program encourages high school juniors and seniors who sometimes decide to take it easy toward the end.

"This gets them to think of a rigorous program and offers them incentive with scholarship money," Benson said. "I can't think of a better way to get them motivated."

Utah college chiefs want liquor-free sports TV
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Friday, August 8, 2008
Author: Tad Walch Deseret News
PROVO -- A broad coalition of football and basketball coaches, athletic directors and college presidents is asking the NCAA to ban beer commercials from college sports broadcasts…
USU President Stan Albrecht and athletic director Scott Barnes and SUU President Michael Benson and athletic director Ken Beazer also signed the letters.

Cedar City remembers 10 crash victims
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Friday, August 29, 2008
Author: Nancy Perkins Deseret News
CEDAR CITY -- Words of comfort, songs of wisdom and thoughts of love were all showered on the surviving relatives and friends of the 10 people killed in a plane crash near Moab last Friday.

Thousands of people gathered on the campus of Southern Utah University to mourn and celebrate the lives of those who died. Bigger-than-life portraits of the victims were displayed on the stage, overlooking more than 180 family members who sat in rows on the floor of the Centrum Arena.

"Mourning is one of the deepest and most profound expressions of love," said SUU President Michael Benson , whose remarks were punctuated with pauses while he struggled with his emotions. "Our community has banded together in our grief. We have forged stronger bonds because of our attendance tonight."

Benson was one of several speakers at the special memorial who shared poignant memories of those who lost their lives…

Michael T. Benson’s Sept 21. 2007 SUU Inaugural Address, here.

SUU president to talk at Israel exhibit in S.L.
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Friday, October 17, 2008
The 60th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel will be commemorated this month with a photo exhibit and lecture series at the Salt Lake City and County Building.

Southern Utah University President Michael Benson will speak on Wednesday at 7:45 p.m. in the building's third floor council chambers on "The American Cyrus: Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel." …Benson is an expert in Middle Eastern history, and has served as a consulting historian and essayist for the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, Mo.

Bond issue: Recession right time to invest in infrastructure
Salt Lake Tribune, The (UT) - Saturday, December 27, 2008
Author: The Salt Lake Tribune
With every day revealing yet more dire news for our state, national and international economies, one would think government should not adopt the policy of increasing expenditures while revenues decline.

And yet billions in assistance dollars have been and are being requested for insurance and financial institutions as well as the automobile industry. Federal aid is even going to homeowners to stem the tide of foreclosures across America.

I certainly don't profess to be an economist but I do recognize that experts from John Maynard Keynes to John Kenneth Galbraith have recognized that government spending is necessary to spur the larger economy in times of recession.

Historians have argued for decades as to what exactly kicked America out of the Depression of the 1920s and '30s -- many maintain it was World War II -- but none can doubt that Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal, with its alphabet soup of new government agencies, put thousands back to work while ushering in a whole new era of government intervention.

Even with the current climate, I am one of a growing chorus in Utah that is urging our state leaders to consider bonding for much-needed infrastructure throughout our state. The moment is right in which need can be met with circumstance and done in such a way that current and future generations will benefit from this investment in our institutions.

Three factors are converging to support such a position. First, the market for government bonds is good and getting better for preferred rates and terms; second, construction costs -- while varying from one industry and market to another -- are generally favorable, and contractors and subcontractors are motivated to get work; and third, and perhaps most important, bonding for facilities now will be a significant boon to our economy and ensure that thousands of Utahns are kept employed in one of our state's most important industries: construction.

To be sure, I have a vested interest in encouraging our Legislature and governor to support these bonds since Southern Utah University is on the government project list for the expansion of our science building (fourth on the State Board of Regents' list and 12th on the State Building Board rankings).

This project is absolutely vital to our future success in preparing students in the sciences and ensuring our role as offering the best undergraduate education anywhere in these areas. The university has been very aggressive in moving this building priority up the list by securing $5 million in non-state money.

Without question, a significant bond issuance -- backed by Utah's AAA rating and benefiting citizens everywhere with projects from Logan to St. George -- would be a bold move and would require broad support and political courage. But pressing infrastructure needs will only grow more acute if we do not act now. These bonds provide a significant means whereby Utah, its economy and its citizens will benefit for years to come.

A time to bond
Salt Lake Tribune, The (UT) - Thursday, January 8, 2009
Author: Public Forum Letter
Every now and then The Tribune Sunday Opinion section brings together individuals from different stripes of life with the same reasoning. This happened last Sunday. Both Bruce Wilson's "Bond, bond, bond" (Forum, Dec. 28) and Michael Benson 's op-ed "Bond issue: Recession right time to invest in infrastructure" (Opinion, Dec. 28) extolled the virtues of using Utah's excellent bond rating to take advantage of the super-low interest rates and invest in the state's infrastructure. ..

SUU graduates 1,767
Salt Lake Tribune, The (UT) - Saturday, May 2, 2009
Author: Mark Havnes The Salt Lake Tribune
Cedar City » Anna Cunningham received her associate degree in science Saturday during commencement exercises at Southern Utah University -- and in three weeks, she'll get her high school diploma….

Cunningham was one of 1,767 students to receive an associate, bachelor's or master's degree during the 112th commencement at the school. The graduates were addressed by Thomas S. Monson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. ..

SUU President Michael Benson reflected on the commitment and sacrifice of those who started the Branch Normal School, as SUU was originally named. "They set the foundation that continues to be built upon," he said.

SUU plans new on-campus art museum
Salt Lake Tribune, The (UT) - Monday, September 7, 2009
Author: Brian Maffly The Salt Lake Tribune
Jim Jones has spent the better part of 33 years gazing on Utah and Arizona's redrock vistas during a career replicating them on canvas. The Springdale-based artist has produced hundreds of landscape paintings, including many depicting iconic landforms of Grand Canyon and Zion national parks.

Some of Jones' oeuvre will find a permanent home in his hometown of Cedar City, where Southern Utah University plans to build an art museum next year with the help of paintings and property Jones is donating. Jones is at work on a series of 14 landscapes for the proposed museum that local officials expect will cement the city's status as the region's cultural center.

"There are so many good art collections around and no home for them," said Jones, 76, a 1961 University of Utah graduate. "When I was little, my dad took me to the Springville Museum of Art. I was enchanted by this big building in this little town, filled with art. I would like to see that for Cedar City."

SUU President Michael Benson revealed the plans at the most recent Board of Regents meeting, promising to raise the entire $10 million cost from philanthropic and other nonstate sources. That means putting out his hat in the worst economic climate in decades, but Benson and local officials are confident the university can pull it off.

"It's a lofty goal but we have cash and pledges in hand of $2 million," said Benson in a phone interview last week from his office, in which hangs one of Jones' earliest landscapes, a winter-time view of the Grand Canyon.

Officials envision the 28,000-square-foot museum as the first leg of a three-phase plan to develop a university arts complex at the corner of 300 West and University -- a campus gateway spot facing downtown and across the street from the Utah Shakespearean Festival.

"We want to do this without state money to show we are serious. It will also contain a campus welcome center and a little cafe," Benson said.

The museum would house a Jones gallery, exhibition spaces and provide an expanded home for the Braithwaite Fine Arts Gallery, currently in a cramped two-room basement suite in SUU's Braithwaite building.

"It's in the middle of the campus and you can't visit because there's no place to park," said Cedar City Mayor Gerald Sherratt, a retired SUU president. "We're very excited about this. It is something we truly need."

Benson pointed out there are no public art museums along the busy 240-mile corridor between Springville and St. George.

"You have an entire swath of the state that doesn't have a access to a repository for sculpture and art," Benson said. "That's a terrible disservice to the public." …

Jones' new series of 14 landscapes will go on display at the Braithwaite starting Oct. 15, following an unveiling event to kick off the museum fundraising campaign. The first pledge came in the form of Jones' Springdale home, which he built in the early 1980s on a mesa with views into Zion Canyon. It is valued at between $1.5 million and $2 million and is to be sold upon his death to fund the museum project, Benson said.

"It would be a wonderful contribution. It would be free and open to all," Benson told the Regents. "We talk a lot about science and technology. It should not be lost how important music, art and poetry are in our daily lives."

College students: Prepare for another tuition hike
Salt Lake Tribune, The (UT) - Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Author: Brian Maffly The Salt Lake Tribune
Utah college students should brace themselves for yet another year of tuition hikes, this time averaging 8.7 percent across the state's nine public colleges and universities….

Southern Utah University is proposing the largest hike at 12.5 percent. Next year the Cedar City school will charge more than the $4,290 students will pay at Brigham Young University, the state's most selective institution, which enjoys a hefty subsidy from its owner, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Re-branding itself as a small liberal-arts college serving the whole state, SUU is pursuing an instruction model that relies on tenure-track, doctoral-level faculty teaching small classes. That kind of education is more expensive and SUU tuition should be more in-line with what similar institutions charge, according to SUU President Michael Benson .

A town named nicely: Benson
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Author: Lee Benson ; Deseret News
BENSON — Talk about hospitality!

I rounded the corner and the sign said, "Welcome Benson." …

Benson, it turns out, is a slow-moving, peaceful slice of Cache Valley located eight miles northwest of Logan that was settled a century and a half ago by Mormon farmers who liked the idea of their alfalfa fields adjoining the Bear River. They started a trend that today we call having a home office.

I would have bet any of their farms that Benson wasn't named after my particular line of Bensons because when my grandfather Adolph came to America from Sweden his name wasn't Benson, it was Bengtsson. He shortened it to Benson when one too many Englishmen spelled it wrong.

Besides, Adolph didn't even arrive in this country until long after Benson was named Benson.

A much better bet was that it was named after Ezra T. Benson, one of the original Mormon pioneers who came to Utah in 1847. Ezra T. was an apostle to Brigham Young and soon after arrival built a beautiful home on the corner of Main Street and South Temple in Salt Lake City, where the Zions Bank tower now stands.

But no sooner had he gotten comfortable than Brigham Young ordered him to move and settle what is now known as Cache Valley.

I learned all this when I called Michael Benson, the president at Southern Utah University and a great-great-great-grandson of Ezra T. Benson.

A student of his family lore, Mike confirmed that the Benson I rode through is indeed named after his great-great-great-grandfather.

"The people in Cache Valley thought so much of him they named a town after him," he said.

Ezra T., however, was never aware of the honor. He died in 1869 and although people had been farming in the vicinity since 1862, the area wasn't officially named Benson until 1871…

SUU plans museum to honor Jim Jones, other local artists
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Friday, December 11, 2009
Author: Wendy Leonard ; Deseret News
Long before he died last Saturday, famed Utah landscape artist Jim Jones pledged his home and his final project, which contained 18 of his best landscapes, to Southern Utah University. Now that gift will help the Cedar City university fulfill a commitment to build an art museum, the only one between Springville and St. George.

The proposed Southern Utah Museum of Art still needs donors to come through to begin work on the building, but local community members and others have come up with $3 million of the nearly $12 million necessary for the project. The "easily accessible" plot of land, on the corner of 300 West and University Boulevard, where the 28,000-square-foot museum will stand, will be ready by the end of next summer, according to SUU President Michael Benson...

Higher ed cuts are akin to eating the 'seed corn'
Salt Lake Tribune, The (UT) - Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Author: Brian Maffly The Salt Lake Tribune
Enrollment caps at Salt Lake Community College. Goodbye to small classes and graduate programs at Southern Utah University. Research grants drying up at the University of Utah.

That's what would be in store for higher education if the Legislature exacts another 5 percent in cuts, institution presidents told lawmakers Tuesday. Utah colleges and universities will be eating their "seed corn," dooming them to a future of mediocrity or worse, officials warned. ..

SUU, a 7,500-student campus in Cedar City, is cutting scholarships and closing its student health center, said President Michael Benson . Now it may eliminate graduate programs, cap enrollment, defer maintenance, and replace full-time faculty with adjuncts, threatening its status as "best in the West" in terms of student value, he said.

SUU's Mormon-themed ad campaign raises questions
Salt Lake Tribune, The (UT) - Saturday, June 5, 2010
Author: Brian Maffly The Salt Lake Tribune
Southern Utah University's recent ad campaign frames its Cedar City campus as a place that supports Mormon cultural values, raising questions about whether a public school should play on faith to recruit students.

In recent years, SUU has burnished its image as a traditional liberal arts and sciences college providing private school-caliber baccalaureate education for the price of public-school tuition. The small Cedar City school markets heavily in the urban Wasatch Front, often featuring women and people of color on billboards on the sides of buses.

Dean O'Driscoll, SUU's vice president for university relations, said the Mormon-themed campaign supports this broader message, portraying SUU as an intimate campus where students enjoy close attention from full-time faculty. SUU spent $12,000 on six ads in April and May portraying it as an ideal setting to prepare for a mission -- the two-year proselytizing tour of duty many college-age Mormons serve -- in the Deseret News ' "Mormon Times" section.

But as a legal matter, publicly-supported institutions ought to steer clear of favoring one religion, race or gender over others, except to address the continuing effects of past discrimination, said Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.

Noting that Latter-day Saints have enjoyed a favored status in Utah, he found the SUU ad "troublesome" and recommended the state's public schools avoid religious pitches without commensurate efforts to recruit Baptists, Catholics and members of other non-Mormon faiths.

Otherwise, "you very quickly cross the line from affirmative action to outright pandering to the dominant forces of society," Nassirian said.

"Is the point of education to bring together like-minded people?" he asked. "The whole point is to bring together people who have different perspectives, different backgrounds. You are best prepared if you have that kind of experience." …

SUU is led by president Michael Benson , who is from a prominent Mormon family. Benson, a professor of modern Middle Eastern history and former president of Snow College in Ephraim, is the grandson of the late Ezra Taft Benson, the LDS Church's 13th president.

The SUU ad features a well-groomed youth from Sandy named Ryan Copeland sporting a Thunderbird red T-shirt morphing into the dark blazer and tie, the standard attire associated with male missionaries. The words "LDS" and "Mormon" don't appear.

"Going to SUU was the best thing I could've done to prepare for my mission," the ad says, quoting the student. "I got away from home and grew up. I gained Church leadership experience at Institute. I made friends who encouraged me to go."

Because SUU is small, it affords leadership opportunities that Utah's larger urban universities cannot guarantee, O'Driscoll said. He noted one-fourth of SUU's 8,000-strong student body attends the Institute and about 230 freshman, or 18 percent of the class, leave school on LDS missions each year.

"Those numbers are just too large to ignore," O'Driscoll said. "It is a smart marketing decision to reach the potential students and their parents in a single publication for a reasonable price."

But others question whether public schools should spend public money to cast themselves as faith-promoting.

"We are talking about a public school that appears to have a specific interest in recruiting one religious community, a community that is well represented to begin with," said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "It seems odd to have public funds spent to recruit students from one religion, arguing that this will be good for their religious faith."

SUU finding new niche as state's only public liberal arts-focused campus
Salt Lake Tribune, The (UT) - Saturday, June 12, 2010
Author: Brian Maffly The Salt Lake Tribune
Cedar City » On the Southern Utah University campus, a new 76-foot-tall carillon stands framed by two of the most dignified buildings in southern Utah, Old Main and the Braithwaite Liberal Arts Center, the scene of a new fall ritual. Incoming freshmen are marched under the tower greeted by cheering peers, faculty and staff on the grassy quad.

Then they are admonished to not walk under that tower again until they graduate, when they will again parade under its 25 pealing bells on their way to commencement.

"There's nothing more collegiate than the sound of bells. We are trying to start traditions that will really take traction," said SUU President Michael Benson , a Middle Eastern history scholar who is leading the school's transformation into a traditional liberal arts and science campus.

As one of his first initiatives as the new president in 2007, Benson raised the $250,000 to erect the tower and buy the bells. The goal was to promote the kind of campus atmosphere that seems to be getting left behind as Utah struggles to broaden access to higher education.

All over the state, institutions are expanding their missions in an effort to serve as many people as possible. For example, Utah State University is providing a community college mission in rural areas and Dixie State College is moving from a community college to a "comprehensive regional university," a leap Utah Valley University (UVU) has recently completed.

SUU is heading in the opposite direction, compressing its mission and emphasizing the baccalaureate experience on its intimate 133-acre campus a few blocks west of downtown Cedar City. Home to the Utah Shakespearean Festival and the future Southern Utah Museum of Art, SUU is aspiring to be The College of William & Mary of the West -- a small, high-caliber publicly supported liberal arts institution.

In Utah, the closest thing to SUU is the private Westminster College in Salt Lake City, where tuition is more than five times that of SUU's $4,700 annual price.

The school is bumping up its selection criteria, building up its cultural and athletic infrastructure, forging partnerships with the national parks, pushing study abroad and seeking membership in Phi Beta Kappa, better known as The Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation's pre-eminent honors organization. This honed mission fits in with the larger vision for Utah's eight-institution system of higher education, according to a member of the state Board of Regents...

SUU will be harder to get into. Its admissions index will be hiked from 85 to 90, equivalent to a 3.0 GPA and 17 on the ACT, for the fall of 2011, putting in on par with Utah State University's.

"Raising entrance standards is a natural consequence of limiting growth," Jordan notes.

This small-campus feel requires an expensive education model and SUU tuition has been rising faster than at its sister institutions. The school has won designations as one of the nation's top values and one of the West's best schools by the Princeton Review, Consumers Digest and U.S. News & World Report. SUU leverages these accolades in its marketing to Utah's populous Wasatch Front, where billboards and bus boards boast a private-school experience on a diverse, student-oriented campus....

The Carter Carillon, now a centerpiece of SUU's historic upper campus, chimes daily at 5 p.m., its bells programmed to play at least 100 songs. The bronze bells came from Holland, the largest weighing two tons. Among those passing under the bells in May was Brian Vaughn, the Shakespeare festival's leading man and artistic director, who attended SUU in the 1990s as a student actor. He had failed to complete his degree for want of a math class, so last spring Benson arranged a tutor to help him pass Math 1010.

"The true measure of an institution isn't the student you admitted, but the student you graduate," Benson says, describing his ideal alumnus as someone who gained broad experience, yet deep knowledge in his major.

"Did they study abroad, did they do a service learning project to Mexico, did they see a Shakespeare play, did they hike Angels Landing and write a reflective essay about it, did they see a Division I football game?" Benson says. "Our graduate, we hope, is someone who looks back and says, 'I did all that and I did it in a small place and they knew who I was and I'll forever be a T-bird.'"

SUU's Big Sky dream comes true
Salt Lake Tribune, The (UT) - Monday, November 1, 2010
Author: Steve Luhm The Salt Lake Tribune
Cedar City » Christmas arrived early this year at Southern Utah University, which realized a decades-old dream Monday by accepting an invitation to join the Big Sky Conference.

The Thunderbirds will start play in the Big Sky in 2012, when they become members of a league that in recent months has evolved into one of the most high-powered in the Football Championship Subdivision.

"There are tectonic forces going on all over the United States as far as intercollegiate athletics are concerned," Southern Utah president Michael Benson said. "... This just happened to be the right moment for us and we couldn't be more pleased."

Kragthorpe: These Irish aren't so fightin', but this game is significant for Utes
Salt Lake Tribune, The (UT) - Friday, November 12, 2010
Author: Kurt Kragthorpe The Salt Lake Tribune
Michael Benson , the president of Southern Utah University and a former Utah administrator, will pursue what he labels a "fascination" with Notre Dame by watching the Utes play the Irish in person.

Benson's attachment stems from three brothers-in-law from Salt Lake City who have attained Notre Dame masters degrees in business. That led him to enroll in the school's Master of Nonprofit Administration program in the summers.

Benson's influence can be heard at Snow College, where he formerly worked, and SUU. Among his first moves at each school was to have the "Notre Dame Victory March" programmed into the bell tower. Notre Dame observes "traditions every institution should emulate," Benson once wrote, suggesting SUU could follow its example of and "strive to rise above the mediocrity that is all too prevalent in the world today."

Michael T. Benson on SUU Athletic Mission here.

This from Mormon Scholars  Testify
“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.”
(2 Corinthians 13:5)
Recently, I had occasion to spend some time with a good friend who is a devout Catholic. Our late afternoon golf outing followed a day spent on the campus of Wheaton College, where a graduate school classmate of mine had been inaugurated as the eighth president. Wheaton is a 150-year-old evangelical school just west of Chicago, Illinois, which counts among its eminent alumni the Reverend Billy Graham. As we came up the eighteenth fairway, my friend said to me: “Mike, I’ve decided to use you as an example with others: here you are a committed Mormon in the midst of finishing a degree at Notre Dame, golfing with your Catholic friend after spending the day at Wheaton College. Now that’s ecumenical!”

While I was flattered by my friend’s observation, my experience is hardly unique. I have been blessed throughout life to see much of the world, to be exposed to many of God’s creations and children, and to experience many cultural, intellectual, and religious traditions. Within these various settings and among a whole host of different people, the Lord has provided opportunities for me to try as best I can to adhere to the Apostle Paul’s admonition: “Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.”
Two of my very best friends have religious traditions far different from my own: Roman Catholicism and Judaism. These friends are committed to their faiths, they make tremendous sacrifices, they serve others, and they positively impact the lives of their families and associates. They have my unending respect and admiration for their adherence to their own traditions and faith. I am a better person for knowing them. My own beliefs have been reinforced and deepened by witnessing first-hand the devotion my friends demonstrate on a daily basis. In many areas, the devotion of my friends to their faith and principles exceeds my own—their examples have motivated me to do better and to try harder to live my own religious beliefs.

I must confess that, throughout my life, neither a great deal of attention nor time has been spent contemplating the mysteries or being consumed with theological—or even historical—discussions relative to doctrine or events in our Church’s past. This is not to suggest that I am not intellectually curious nor that I have never experienced periods of doubt nor questioned my own religious tradition. Frankly, there are parts to our history and dogma which I do not understand. Nonetheless, I do not allow discrepancies in records, accounts, or even theological arguments to interfere with what I might term a very simple faith. For others, these nagging questions or doubts prove to be insurmountable obstacles and have steered them off on a life path different from the one I have chosen to walk.

My faith is rooted and grounded in the Lord Jesus Christ, in His life of service to others, in His sacrifice, death, and resurrection, and in His role in my everyday life. All else, as Joseph Smith said of our religion, is mere appendages to the incontrovertible fact that Jesus died on the cross, rose again in the third day, and lives today. This faith is what motivates me to try to do good and what keeps me among the Mormon faithful. It also motivates me to continue in good standing within the LDS Church so as to avail myself of priesthood ordinances and blessings, and thereby bless the lives of my family and friends. The organization of the Church, regardless of the congregation’s location—together with its members—has proven to be a constant in my life when other influences have ebbed and flowed.

In short, I try my best to find fellowship with the Mormon Saints for three simple reasons:

First, it is the faith of my fathers. As the anthem in our church hymnal concludes: “Faith of our fathers, holy faith—we will be true to thee ‘til death” (Hymns, no. 84). The examples of my forebears are not only humbling and motivating, but they also steel me for the challenges I face in my own life. In many ways, my devotion to the precepts of the LDS Church is in part an expression of gratitude to family members and others for what they sacrificed. Although I have my own agency and could choose any number of paths to take, my belief system has propelled me to never betray the trust of my family by abandoning the faith of my ancestors. And from my examination of other faiths and belief systems, Mormonism is the best fit for me personally and spiritually. It is what I know and what I believe.

Second, a commitment to and belief in the LDS Church have provided a solid and secure foundation by which I try to live a Christ-centered life. There are many areas where I fall short but I am buoyed up by our faith’s promise of forgiveness and eternal progression. I firmly believe in the principle of personal revelation and the importance of the Holy Ghost in prompting me daily as I strive to live in such a way as to merit its companionship. I also value our faith’s commitment to truth—in all of its forms and wherever it may be found—and the affirmation that we as mortals are expected, even commanded, to “seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118). My own personal quest and pursuit of knowledge has led me back time and again and to the faith and traditions which my family and friends have inculcated in me since birth. Mormonism is as much a part of my cultural and personal DNA as any genetic code inherited from my parents.

Further, adherence to gospel principles has enabled me to make decisions that have served me very well and that don’t require that I “remake” these decisions over and over. A simple but profound example: while living and studying as a graduate student in England, I saw daily the destructive and addictive power of substance abuse in classmates’ lives. My abstention from these substances freed me from the consequences they had to face because of their own personal choices. Life can be hard enough without the compounding complications that come from making unwise life choices that could easily be avoided.

Third, the principles espoused by the LDS Church have blessed my life and provided opportunities for spiritual growth and service to others. While the latter years of high school—and most of my professional life—have been spent in Utah, I have often been among the minority in work and school circumstances as I have lived in other parts of the United States and the world. These settings have provided ample chances to demonstrate my active LDS faith by my actions. My hope is that these actions characterize me as one of the “believers” to those who observed my actions on a daily basis.

This, then, is my faith and my testimony. I choose to not share experiences or instances that are more private in nature because they are just that—they are personal to me and my life’s journey and I hold them sacred. As Isaiah says in my favorite passage in chapter forty, I have tried to “wait upon the Lord” (verse 40) and he has answered my prayers in powerful ways which I reflect on frequently to provide support during difficult times in life.

For me, the best way to “testify” of my beliefs is how I live my life. Jesus taught, “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). Arguably one of organized religion’s most revered figures, and the author of hymn number 62 in our LDS Hymnal, St. Francis of Assisi once wrote: “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”
If the primary purpose of websites such as this is to build and strengthen faith, I would hope that my own personal life and my attempts to serve others as best I can are a much stronger testament than anything I might write or say.
SUU v.p. arrested in prostitution sting
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Sunday, December 12, 2010
Author: Dennis Romboy ; Deseret News
CEDAR CITY — A Southern Utah University vice president was among eight men authorities arrested Friday in a prostitution sting. …"Given the charges filed against Wes Curtis, the university is placing him on paid administrative leave, per university policy. This leave is effective immediately and pending the outcome of an investigation into the alleged misconduct," SUU President Michael Benson said in a statement Saturday.

Utah college VP resigns after prostitution arrest
Associated Press State Wire: Utah (UT) - Tuesday, January 25, 2011
A Southern Utah University vice president has resigned following his arrest and prosecution in a Cedar City police prostitution sting…SUU President Michael Benson accepted the resignation in a statement also posted on the website.

Higher ed: Lawmaker laments 'degrees to nowhere'
Salt Lake Tribune, The (UT) - Thursday, February 3, 2011
Author: Brian Maffly The Salt Lake Tribune
The state is wasting billions of dollars conferring "degrees to nowhere" on college students because higher education is badly "misaligned" with the work force, according to an influential lawmaker.

Sen. Howard Stephenson's presentation to the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee on Thursday fueled an ongoing debate about the value of liberal arts, long viewed as the cornerstone to a well-rounded education. Stephenson, R-Draper, contends too few students are graduating in scientific and technical fields and that jobs are going unfilled as a result.

Stephenson, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, argued that Utah's colleges and universities should be graduating more students in STEM fields -- science, technology, engineering and math. He proposed spending $8 million on a "web portal" for students, educators and employers to share information about career opportunities and the needed pathways to reach them.

"We need to be more student-centric. Instead, we are institution-centric. Each is in its own silo, and information is not shared," said the senator, who holds degrees in psychology and aerospace studies from Brigham Young University. Implicit in his "degree to nowhere" argument is the notion that the humanities and social sciences are a drain on higher-education resources and don't help students get jobs.

Several college and university presidents sat quietly behind Stephenson during his hour long presentation. They included Utah State's Stan Albrecht, who holds a degree in sociology from BYU; the University of Utah's Michael Young, political science, BYU; Utah Valley's Matthew Holland, political science, BYU; and Snow College's Scott Wyatt, economics and philosophy, Utah State. None rose to rebut Stephenson, but in a phone interview after the meeting, Southern Utah University's Michael Benson challenged Stephenson's assumption that a liberal-arts degree leads "nowhere."

"On our campus, where we place heavy emphasis on traditional liberal arts and sciences, we believe any college student should have a breadth of exposure, as well as drilling down into one discipline," Benson said. "One thing I learned as a history and English major, some of the most enlivening experiences were those that taught me how to write, think, reason, argue my point and listen to others' perspectives."

The liberal arts might not always lead directly to a particular job, but they connect students to their cultural heritage and promote civic engagement.

"When the pioneers got [to Utah], they had nothing. What was the first thing they did? They founded the University of Deseret to teach those very things -- literature, art, philosophy," Benson said….

Regents consider tuition hikes of 5 to 12 percent
Salt Lake Tribune, The (UT) - Monday, March 21, 2011
Author: Brian Maffly The Salt Lake Tribune
The State Board of Regents will consider tuition increases averaging 7.5 percent for the state's eight colleges and universities when it meets Friday in St. George. The proposed hikes are expected to raise an additional $38 million from Utah students, highlighting an unrelenting upward trend in the price of a college education…

Southern Utah University proposes the largest dollar amount increase at $462. For the second year in a row, the Cedar City school is seeking an 11 percent increase. But with tuition and fees combining for $5,200 annually, SUU would remain a bargain considering it is providing a small-campus liberal arts and science experience which includes a new program in Shakespeare studies, according to President Michael Benson . SUU tuition will remain 30 percent less than its peer institutions in other states.

The increase "will go to 20 new faculty and new advisors and new resources for our experiential learning requirements. It's all tied to our academic road map that will further differentiate us from the other institutions in the system," Benson said. "We are trying to focus more on quality. That costs a bit more and our students are supportive."

USU's Albrecht not alone in donating pay raise
Herald Journal, The (Logan, UT) - Sunday, September 25, 2011
Author: USU's Albrecht not alone in donating pay raise Kevin Opsahl The Herald Journal
Turns out Utah State University President Stan Albrecht isn’t the only one who doesn’t feel the need for extra dough.

By the end of last week, seven of the eight public college and university presidents in Utah had declared they would put their extra money toward students or other endeavors…
Southern Utah University President Michael Benson said he would use part of his $13,441 raise with the First Lady to endow a scholarship, Dean O’Driscoll, vice president of university relations, told The Herald Journal. The other part will go to pay off student loans for a master’s degree he earned at University of Notre Dame.

Center at SUU is named in honor of Harry Reid
Salt Lake Tribune, The (UT) - Saturday, September 3, 2011                     
Author: Mark Havnes The Salt Lake Tribune
Cedar City » One of the most powerful politicians in the country was at Southern Utah University on Thursday reminiscing about his time at the school he graduated from in 1959 and being recognized with an academic center named in his honor.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was invited to the Cedar City university, which has named its new Center for Outdoor Engagement after the Nevada Democrat.

A year after prostitution sting, resignation, administrator returns to Southern Utah University
Salt Lake Tribune, The (UT) - Saturday, December 24, 2011
Author: The Salt Lake Tribune
A year after he resigned in the wake of prostitution sting, a former Southern Utah University administrator will return to the Cedar City campus in a new role as director of regional services.

Wesley Curtis, the one-time vice president for government relations and regional service, was among 50 candidates to apply for this post, and was picked as a finalist by a search committee.

"Wes is to be commended for working hard to make things right with his family, his friends, and his work associates. We are pleased to once again be able to avail ourselves of his considerable talents," said a new release quoting SUU President Michael Benson , who made the decision to re-hire Curtis.

Curtis, 59, was among eight people arrested at a Cedar City motel in December 2010 where an undercover officer posed as a prostitute and negotiated with men to exchange money for sex. He later resigned, then pleaded guilty to a class B misdemeanor of solicitation. He was fined $623 and ordered to pay restitution.

"I believe in second chances, and know that Wes has paid a significant price professionally and personally," Benson said. "I am confident Wes Curtis has done all that could be expected of him as he has made amends for his past mistakes."

Michael T. Benson in the Huffington Post: (1) Comments | Posted January 2, 2013 | 12:01 PM
With the dawn of a new year come the requisite New Year's resolutions to lose weight, to be a better person and, in my case, to shave a few strokes off the golf handicap. But I've also decided to focus on the principle that suggests that life is really about...

Curtis' return getting mixed reviews

SUU News January 8, 2012
Many opinions have been voiced as Former Vice President of Regional Services Wes Curtis returns to SUU’s campus as the new director of regional services.

Curtis will return after resigning as VP and pleading guilty to a Class B misdemeanor for sex solicitation last year. The final decision for the rehire was made by SUU President Michael T. Benson, who chose Curtis out of 50 candidates.

Curtis said he was humbled and grateful for being hired as an SUU employee again.

“Nobody makes it through life without making a mistake of some kind,” he said.

Curtis said Benson’s decision shows “courage and compassion,” and Curtis said he hopes the community and university will respect that.

Benson said he believes in second chances and Curtis is back on board after making amends, such as paying the $623 fine and restitution.

“I am happy to have Wes back and know he will do a superb job,” he said....

Brooke Gibbens, a sophomore education major from South Jordan, said she doesn’t feel uncomfortable with Curtis being on campus, but she is disappointed with SUU.

“I would expect the college that I pay good money to attend to step their game up and do whatever needs be so that we can maintain a good reputation,” she said. “If you play in the pasture long enough, eventually you’ll smell like (excrement) too.” ...

Is higher education in Utah getting enough state funding?
Salt Lake Tribune, The (UT) - Saturday, February 4, 2012
Author: Brian Maffly The Salt Lake Tribune
Anticipating a boost in tax revenues next fiscal year, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert is calling for a 1 percent increase in compensation for state employees -- except those who work for colleges and universities. Higher education officials and business leaders are concerned that campuses could see an exodus of top faculty and staff, now experiencing their third year of frozen pay.

University presidents pleaded with legislators this week to raise pay for higher ed, calling it their highest funding priority this session and a critical investment if Utah is to meet its goal of having 66 percent of the workforce holding a post-secondary credential…

Colleges and universities are allowed to hike tuition to fund compensation increases, but only Southern Utah University has done so in recent years. The Cedar City school, which has retooled its mission with an emphasis on liberal arts and sciences, established 20 new faculty positions under this year's steep tuition hike, President Michael Benson told the committee. Yet SUU remains a bargain relative to similar colleges.

Sorenson gives $3M to Westminster to expand arts education
Salt Lake Tribune, The (UT) - Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Author: Ben Fulton The Salt Lake Tribune
On Monday, Westminster College announced a $3 million gift from the Sorenson Legacy Foundation for a new position of endowed chair in arts education…

"Beverley's commitment to arts education and her tireless efforts on behalf of school children everywhere will be evidenced in the daily activities of this magnificent facility," SUU President Michael Benson said.

S. Utah college gets $4 million donation
Associated Press State Wire: Utah (UT) - Monday, February 20, 2012
Southern Utah University has received a $4 million donation a gift officials say is the single-largest gift in the 115-year-old school's history.

In a statement, SUU President Michael Benson says the donation is a game-changer for the school.

Mormon leader on Utah Democrat's list of possible running mates
Salt Lake Tribune, The (UT) - Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Author: Robert Gehrke The Salt Lake Tribune
Advisers to Peter Cooke have forwarded the Democratic gubernatorial candidate a short wish list of potential candidates for lieutenant governor that includes retiring LDS general authority Marlin Jensen…» Michael Benson , president of Southern Utah University and grandson of former LDS Church President Ezra Taft Benson.

Benson delivers positive news in Campus Forum

SUU News April 15, 12012
President Michael T. Benson presented positive news to the faculty, staff, students and community members on Thursday during the 2012 spring semester Campus Forum.
Benson announced during the meeting that the College of Science and Engineering naming ceremony will take place on May 3 at 4 p.m. in the sculpture garden north of the Science Center.
The new science building, which opened in September, will be named the L.S. and Aline W. Skaggs Center for Health and Molecular Sciences.
The Skaggs donated $1 million to help finish the building and another $1 million to put their name on the building. $500,000 of their donation went to instruction and $1.5 million went into endowment.
The university’s science program now has more than $5 million worth of endowment which equates to $250,000 worth of scholarship every year…

A rabbi, a Mormon and a black Christian mayor walk into a room...
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - Sunday, June 24, 2012
Author: Christian Ross ; Deseret News
Our take: Jessica Ravitz writes about the friendship between Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Michael Benson , president of Southern Utah University, and Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, who met each other at Oxford University in England.

Mormon mission fallout to shake up Utah colleges
Salt Lake Tribune, The (UT) - Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Author: Brian Maffly The Salt Lake Tribune
Saturday was supposed to be about NCAA football for Southern Utah University President Michael Benson .

But news out of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints promptly changed the subject less than three hours before the Thunderbirds' kickoff against Sacramento State.

Instead of boasting about the mighty arm quarterback Brad Sorenson, Benson spent the morning fielding questions from trustees and alumni about how reduced ages for missionary service will affect the Cedar City school.

"I had more questions about it than I knew how to handle," Benson said. "We're in the nascent stages of trying to figure out what policies we can come up with to accommodate them. It will impact our recruiting and scholarship policies."

He also expects a dip in enrollment next semester if many students, who now qualify for Mormon missions under the new policy, opt to leave school. Currently, nearly a fifth of SUU's freshman class leaves on missions each year.

At last weekend's General Conference in Salt Lake City, church leaders announced they were lowering the minimum mission age from 21 to 19 for women and from 19 to 18 for men. The policy change, which takes immediate effect, is expected to have a profound influence on college life across Utah, whose universities bid a temporary farewell each year to thousands of students answering the call of their church. Now faithful Mormon men can embark on two-year tours of proselytizing duty right out of high school (women go for 18 months), but it is unclear how many will choose to do that….
SUU's Benson said he hopes elite schools will see that missionary experience will enable applicants to bring greater maturity and study skills to their campuses.

He suspects many college-bound students could be better off completing their church service out of high school. That way they avoid breaking up their college studies and arrive at school with greater confidence. Benson cited his nephews who attended the U.S. Air Force Academy, but could not graduate with the cadets they started with because they left Colorado Springs for two-year missions.

BYU grad and current SUU president set bar high

By Daily Universe at BYU on May 1, 2012.

BYU’s call to “go forth to serve” has taken alumni across the country and around the globe, but for Southern Utah University President Michael Benson, he only had to travel three hours south to make a world of difference.

Benson’s contribution’s to SUU have been enormous. He is one of five current college and university presidents in Utah who graduated from BYU, and he cited his time as a Cougar as important to where he is today.

“I always wanted to go there,” he said, even though most of his high school classmates did not.
Michael T. Benson is president of Southern Utah University and is a BYU graduate.

Benson graduated from East High School in Salt Lake City in 1983. He was one of four students in his graduating class who went to BYU, while the other 250 went to the University of Utah. Benson studied political science and minored in both English and history.

“I will always be very grateful for those experiences I had at BYU,” he said.

Some of his favorite times as a BYU student were interning through the Kennedy Center on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and studying in Israel.

“That was a seminal time in my life,” he said. “It opened my eyes.”

Benson eventually returned to BYU as a political science professor. However, he soon found himself in administration.

“I was at the right place at the right time,” he said.

He worked as an assistant to the president at the University of Utah and focused on fundraising, something he would come to be known for later in his career. In 2001 he was named president of Snow College. During his five-year tenure, he helped the university raise more money than the rest of its 117 years combined.

In 2007, he was appointed president of SUU, but didn’t receive the warmest welcome. A student committee felt Benson was making promises he couldn’t keep when he talked about the money he wanted to raise for the university. After addressing student concerns and securing a $3 million donation a few weeks later, Benson convinced his doubters.

Benson has helped the university raise millions of dollars as part of its “The Future is Rising” campaign, and his wife, Debi, said his enthusiasm has been critical to convincing donors.
“More than anything, it’s his enthusiasm and excitement for what the university can do,” she said. “He’s got a fresh vision. It’s hard to be around him and not feel that excitement.”

Debi said the strains of raising three young children can be hard, but her husband works hard to balance his job with his family.

“We could be doing something every single night,” she said. “We take the kids everywhere though.”

Student body president T.J. Nelson said Benson’s contributions to SUU extend beyond fundraising.

“He is so cool and he is so good at what he does,” Nelson said. “He brought in a lot of talent I don’t think we’d have otherwise.”

The talent and money Benson has helped the university attract is all part of a plan to position SUU as a “private college experience at a public university,” something he said is unique in Utah higher education. He hopes students will not only learn in the classroom, but they will be able to have hands-on experience.

By Michael T. Benson in the Huffington Post: (1) Comments | Posted May 29, 2012 | 5:34 PM
The following is not intended as a defense of the current BCS system, racked as it is with imperfections and inherent unfairness. Rather, I choose to celebrate the pageantry that is college football. And it is meant as a counter to an argument, recently promoted, by Buzz Bissinger...

By Michael T. Benson in the Huffington Post: (0) Comments | Posted June 5, 2012 | 10:59 AM
As I approach my twentieth year working in public higher education, there are two times of the year that remain my absolute favorite: the excitement that surrounds the start of each academic year in the fall, and the collective sense of accomplishment -- and relief! -- that accompanies graduation in...

By Michael T. Benson in the Huffington Post: (2) Comments | Posted June 18, 2012 | 4:26 PM
Sociology, history, political science, economics and philosophy -- some have maintained that these and other "liberal arts" subjects are throw-away degrees offering little to no promise that those pursuing them will have any chance of employment in today's uber-competitive job market.
However, this list also represents, respectively, the undergraduate...

By Michael T. Benson in the Huffington Post: (0) Comments | Posted July 19, 2012 | 2:16 PM
A recent Chronicle of Higher Education cover story detailed the "graying presidency" and the inherent challenges are facing in grooming the next generation of university chief executives. Having become a president eleven years ago at age 36, I recognize the incredibly small group of us under the age...

By Michael T. Benson in the Huffington Post: (2) Comments | Posted August 9, 2012 | 3:29 PM
London is a city of monuments. This is especially evident as images of this remarkable city and its Olympic venues are beamed to billions of people around the globe during this unparalleled sporting event. Equestrian statues, buildings, arches, parks, bronzes, boulevards -- all these speak to the glorious history of...

By Michael T. Benson in the Huffington Post : (2) Comments | Posted October 22, 2012 | 3:05 PM
I recently had the chance to make my 17th visit to the State of Israel and was struck, once again, by a phenomenon unique to a nation created in May of 1948. Never before had a "dead" language been resurrected to become the national language for a new state. While...

By Michael T. Benson in the Huffington Post:
(10) Comments | Posted November 6, 2012 | 9:31 AM
I witnessed a miracle Tuesday morning. I did not have an epiphany or experience any type of revelation or reckoning. Rather, like millions of other Americans I walked into a polling place -- not unlike thousands across this country -- and in the privacy of a booth, cast a ballot...

Benson and others contribute 12,000 range balls to local golf course used by SUU team. 12/27/2012

This from             

Paystrup v. Benson et al 

Plaintiff: Patricia Paystrup,  jury demanded

Defendants: Michael T. Benson , James McDonald  and Southern Utah University
Case Number: 2:2013cv00016
Filed: January 7, 2013 Utah District Court
Nature of Suit: Civil Rights - Americans with Disabilities – Employment - 42:12101 Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 - Federal Question

President Benson seeks help from SUU students

SUU News February 10, 2013
The SUU President’s Council is taking students’ suggestions on how SUU should adjust to a leaner tuition revenue in the fall because of an expected enrollment drop.

President Michael T. Benson sent a letter to students via mySUU Portal on Feb. 1 containing a link to the suggestion webpage.

Nicole Bunker, a freshman accounting major from Payson, said she saw the note from Benson earlier this week.

“I’m glad that he is trying to include the students in how to help with the budget cuts,” she said.
Benson said two days before the message was sent to students, a similar letter went out to professors…

“The bread and butter of SUU really is the undergraduate residential campus experience,” Benson said. “We do not want to in any way jeopardize the SUU experience.”

By Michael T. Benson in the Huffington Post: (0) Comments | Posted February 13, 2013 | 4:22 PM
Recent headlines from newspapers and periodicals across America portend the imminent burst of the higher education bubble while calling into question the usefulness of a postsecondary diploma in the face of crushing debt encumbering so many college graduates. Even the noted pundit and author Charles Murray advocates "getting rid of...

Michael T. Benson on Facebook here.

Michael T. Benson on Wikipedia here.

Michael T. Benson on Amazon here.
Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel by Michael T. Benson (Jul 16, 1997)

Michael T. Benson on Boy Scouting.              
 “As an Eagle Scout myself, I believe that Scouting is one of the greatest forces for good that exists in our Country today. At a time when our youth are bombarded with so many challenges, I am grateful for the positive influence Scouting continues to play in the lives of so many young people.”

Michael T. Benson on Flickr here.   

Michael T. Benson on LinkedIn here.

Michael T. Benson does the Harlem Shake, VIDEO here.

Benson also listed as Adjunct Professor in the Department of Management, Mendoza College of Business, University of Notre Dame here.

Michael T. Benson’s bio from the Office of the President, Southern Utah University.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Obviously the strongest candidate but the Harlem Shake?