President Benson Addresses Faculty, Staff at Fall Convocation

Benson photo

After recounting the story of how Orville and Wilbur Wright overcame great odds to make aviation history and change the world, Eastern Kentucky University President Michael Benson challenged faculty and staff to live a life of curiosity and consequence.

“I want to challenge you to look at your life and career here and ask yourself if your life is full of positive consequences – on your department, your colleagues and your students,” said Benson, speaking at the University’s annual Fall Convocation in Brock Auditorium. “Public higher education is facing unprecedented challenges and opportunities, and my commitment to you is that we’re going to make decisions full of consequences, now and in the future.”

After detailing how the Wright Brothers’ historic achievements grew from an insatiable curiosity, Benson also urged his listeners to never stop learning – from their students, friends and associates, and even their children.

Benson, who became EKU’s 12th president in August 2013, spent much of the hour detailing several campus improvement projects. (The convocation can be viewed in its entirety at video.eku.edu/fall-convocation-2014.)

Perhaps the most momentous is the planned groundbreaking on Oct. 23 for Phase 2 of the New Science Building. He noted many enhancements designed to further beautify the campus, especially along busy Lancaster Avenue. These include an arboretum – an “oasis in the middle of campus” – to replace the Martin Hall tennis courts (new outdoor courts will be constructed near the Greg Adams Tennis Center) and a new pedestrian entranceway in place of Combs residence hall, which will be razed this fall.

Benson also cited the upcoming construction of a reading porch on the south side of John Grant Crabbe Main Library, made possible by a gift from Ron and Sherrie Lou Noel, and an adjacent pedestrian mall.  He also referenced the recent announcement about the construction of a multi-purpose facility to replace the grandstands on the east side of Roy Kidd Stadium.

Besides all the construction projects, new building and street signs also dot the campus. “Yes, it’s cosmetic,” Benson allowed, “but it speaks to the fact that we’re proud of the place we work.”

The president also announced that the University would sponsor a “Campus Challenge” contest whereby members of the campus community would submit additional ideas for improvement, with the individual or group submitting the best idea receiving a $10,000 cash prize.

Benson said the guiding priorities for “Make No Little Plans: The Vision for 2020” would be institutional and academic excellence, a commitment to student success, and partnering with the community and region. Following the incorporation of the Input Team feedback, he noted, “the entire campus community will be asked to provide feedback on the new mission, vision and goals.”

Faculty and staff also heard about the Colonels Comply initiative (colonelscomply.eku.edu), approved by the Board of Regents earlier this year and scheduled for implementation this fall. Its purpose, Benson said, is to “further EKU’s mission and strategic plan by proactively promoting an institutional culture of compliance. We will try our best to over-communicate what these rules are. It is incumbent upon us to be compliant.”

Benson also outlined inaugural activities Oct. 20-25, “a week-long celebration centered around service, leadership, scholarship, student success, and partnering with our community and region.” Activities will include community service projects, a regularly scheduled Board of Regents meeting at Lilley Cornett Woods, a faculty/staff luncheon, a presentation by renowned poet and writer Nikki Giovanni, a student talent show, the NSB Phase 2 groundbreaking, a presentation by diplomat and author Ken Adelman, the inauguration ceremony (4:30 p.m. Oct. 24 at the EKU Center for the Arts) and the Homecoming Parade and football game on Oct. 25, followed by a special concert.

The president also announced that Eastern will return to the practice of holding a single University-wide spring commencement ceremony outdoors at Roy Kidd Stadium, weather permitting, with each academic college also holding its own ceremony at staggered times that weekend.

“We want more of a focus on the students and the faculty and staff in the college where they get their degree,” Benson said.

EKU begins fall classes on Monday, Aug. 18.

Published on August 13, 2014