Benson Promises "Bold and Audacious" Course at Inauguration Ceremony

Benson inauguration photo

“Too often in higher education,” Michael Benson said, “we become accustomed to saying that things cannot be done, or this or that cannot be tried.

“I say that we cannot afford to remain static, nor do we have the luxury of being anything but bold and audacious.”

Speaking at his inauguration today as EKU’s 12th president, Benson said it is “an honor and a privilege to work in higher education and at a place like EKU. Let us not take this opportunity for granted. Ours is a window of time and we must take advantage of it. Let us leave here today with a renewed commitment to do right by those who built buildings, established programs, planted trees, endowed scholarships, changed lives, and invested sweat equity in this place – knowing full well that their investment would not be enjoyed in their lifetimes but by those who followed. Let us be the trailblazers of the 21st century.”

His inaugural address followed a glowing introduction by Dr. Brad Cook, provost at Southern Utah University, where Benson served as president 2006-13. Cook, who traced his friendship with Benson back to their student days at Oxford, called EKU’s president “the optimist’s optimist.

“He has a healthy reality distortion field,” Cook said. “He makes other people believe in the possibility of achieving difficult tasks.  He will find a way to win, because that’s what champions do. Never, ever bet against Michael Benson.”

Benson said the three “essential ingredients to the current and future success of our university” are the three P’s: people, places and programs.

He urged the University community to “consider every possible way to say ‘yes’ to opportunities for our students – to do all we can to help them succeed.”

Benson, who came to EKU in August 2013, called the University’s faculty and staff “the most important asset we have at EKU … the lifeblood of this institution. We will continue to pursue both policies and practices which reward your service and value your role within the University.”

A hallmark of the Benson presidency has been his commitment to what he called “an aggressive campus renewal plan,” including the groundbreaking on Oct. 23 for Phase 2 of the New Science Building. When both phases are joined, the resulting 340,000-square-foot science facility “will be the envy of all the Commonwealth,” Benson said. “There will be nothing like it anywhere.”

The renewal also includes several projects designed to improve the curb appeal of the Richmond campus and “present ourselves in the best possible light and the most positive manner. Our staff and faculty deserve to work and teach in spaces which enhance the teaching and learning process.”

Lastly, Benson talked about programs.

“We will never waver from our core mission: to produce graduates who are culturally competent, socially aware, and intellectually curious,” he said. “We can do no better than to prepare our students to think logically and communicate clearly, regardless of discipline or chosen field of study. And we will continue to emphasize, as our primary goal, access to education for all those from our service region and beyond.”

EKU alumni, many of whom have given generously to the University, dotted the audience. Benson spoke of his wish to “make all those who voluntarily give to Eastern even more proud of their investment and more secure in the decision they have made.

“We must be more bold and we will. We must be more innovative and we will. We must do better and we will.”

The inaugural ceremony also featured greetings, in order, from Staff Regent Bryan Makinen; Faculty Regent Dr. Amy Thieme; Student Regent Kyle Nicholas; Glenn Raglin, president, EKU International Alumni Association; Ernest House, vice chair, Board of Regents; Dr. Aaron Thompson, executive vice president and chief academic officer, Council on Postsecondary Education; Richmond Mayor Jim Barnes; Madison County Judge-Executive Kent Clark; State Rep. Greg Stumbo, Speaker of the House, Kentucky House of Representatives; State Sen. Robert Stivers, president, Kentucky Senate; and Sixth District U.S. Congressman Andy Barr. Craig Turner, chair of the Board of Regents, welcomed guests and introduced dignitaries in attendance.

Several younger members of the extended Benson family assisted with the musical selections: the Bensons’ three youngest children, Truman, Tatum and Talmage, were among nine joining the University Singers in a rendition of “My Old Kentucky Home,” and Natalie Millington performed a harp solo. Model Laboratory School student Parker Hastings performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” on guitar. The EKU Symphony Orchestra also performed.

Published on October 24, 2014

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