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“We can control our own destiny,” Eastern Kentucky University President Michel Benson reminded faculty and staff at the University’s annual fall convocation today.

“There’s a lot of extraneous noise around us that we can’t control, but the things we can control are the excellent things,” he said.

Speaking in EKU’s Center for the Arts, EKU’s 13th president said Eastern will reach its goals by emphasizing the four focal points of its Strategic Plan: academic distinction, a comprehensive fund-raising campaign, campus revitalization and enrollment management, “all within the parameters of financial stability and effective stewardship of resources.”

The University is in the midst of an ambitious campus revitalization initiative aimed at recruiting more students and enhancing their success. The projects and plans include new academic, student-centric and athletics facilities as well as various landscaping projects designed to enhance the curb appeal of the Richmond campus.

Benson displayed a graph that showed the rapid expansion of the campus during the presidency of Robert R. Martin (1960-76). In fact, the square footage of campus facilities increased almost five-fold during that time.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about this gentleman,” he said. “We’re dealing now with infrastructure that’s 50 to 60 years old. That’s why we’re talking about campus revitalization. This is our chance to shape our campus in a very significant way … one of our finest moments … a chance to make a difference.”

Benson noted the Commonwealth squandered a similar chance in 1924 to impact future generations when it rejected a $75 million bond issue sought by Gov. William J. Fields that would have funded critical investments in education and infrastructure.

“It was a lost opportunity,” Benson said, “and I am committed not to lose this opportunity for Eastern Kentucky University.”

Benson said the University’s top capital construction priorities are: a new Model Laboratory School/College of Education complex, renovation of the Moore Building and a new aviation facility at Madison Airport, which EKU, with its rapidly expanding and nationally unique aviation program, serves as fixed-base operator.

He also discussed plans for a $215 million Center for Student Life, which would include a new recreation center, renovated student union, new dining facilities and residence halls and other improvements. Financing would come from public-private partnerships, private support, University funds and a recently enacted student fee (which would cover only the recreation center and renovated student union).

“The future really does look bright at EKU,” Benson said. “As we reflect on a new academic year and the excitement that comes with a new freshman class, remember how fortunate we are to be here today, to work with students and change their lives and their futures.”

The University will welcome 2,860 new, first-time freshmen, 800 of whom are first-generation college students, to campus this year. Move-in day is Friday, Aug. 21, and classes begin Monday, Aug. 24. 

To see the full video of the Convocation address, visit