Benson among Leaders Heading Effort to Help Appalachian Kentucky Move Forward

Pres. Benson photo

Eastern Kentucky University President Michael Benson is among 41 leaders from education, government and business heading a comprehensive and bipartisan effort aimed at “Shaping Our Appalachian Region.”

That’s the title for a recently announced initiative to help Kentucky’s Appalachian region move forward in the face of continued declines in the coal industry.

Benson is among 11 higher education executives from the area tapped to serve on a planning committee whose first task is to plan a regional summit, “SOAR: Shaping Our Appalachian Region, on Dec. 9 at the Eastern Kentucky Exposition Center in Pikeville. The summit was announced at a news conference Oct. 28 in Hazard that featured, among others, Gov. Steve Beshear, Fifth District Congressman Hal Rogers, Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers and Kentucky House of Representatives Speaker Greg Stumbo. Beshear and Stumbo are Democrats; Rogers and Stivers are Republicans.

Benson attended the morning news conference and rushed back to Richmond for the first Board of Regents meeting in his presidential tenure.

“Tens of thousands of people out there need our help,” he told the Regents upon his return to campus. “It falls upon us as the largest public institution in the area to be a leader.”

Benson said that effort will include a “campus-wide conversation” at EKU. “This is a chance to show we mean business. We can make a difference in this part of the Commonwealth.”

The SOAR Summit in December is expected to attract participants from across southern and eastern Kentucky with diverse occupational backgrounds and interests – including representatives of education, business, non-profits, arts, finance, tourism, local government and more. The event is open to anyone with an interest in the region’s future. Registration is available at

Published on October 30, 2013

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