By: Zeynab Day
Michael T. Benson was named as Eastern’s 12th president Friday at a special meeting of the EKU Board of Regents, where the board voted unanimously in his favor.
Benson was one of three finalists nominated by the presidential search and screening committee. Current president Doug Whitlock is slated to retire on July 1, and Benson is scheduled to begin his tenure as president on Aug. 1.
Benson is currently president of Southern Utah University and former president of Snow College, a position he assumed at age 36, which was a record for the youngest university president in Utah. At both schools, Benson demonstrated a knack for fund-raising, helping both schools establish new benchmarks for school donations.
Board of Regents President and chair of the presidential search and screening committee Craig Turner said he called Benson to confirm his acceptance of the nomination.
“If you could see me through the phone, I’ve got an ear-to-ear grin right now and I cannot wait to get started,” Benson said. “I can promise you we will deliver on what we have promised to do, and I cannot wait to begin work there.”
In describing the decision to select Benson, Turner said the board believed he brought several strong attributes to the table. He said one of Benson’s first objectives will be to help navigate the university through its budget cuts and reallocations.
“What attracted us to Dr. Benson as well was he’s been involved in budget cuts in the past, so he’s been used to making tough decisions, which was a factor in our selection of a candidate,” Turner said. “I think he has the personality to get people to believe in where the next direction and path is going to take us.”
Turner said Benson showed he had a good understanding of Eastern’s budgeting moves, and that he was comfortable with the 18 to 24 month period for the reallocation.
“I think we’re going to see a lot of unique ideas out of him,” Turner said. “I think with his tool box, he is going to build a really strong house.”