President Michael Benson discusses his new book, "College for the Commonwealth: A Case for Higher Education in American Democracy," at the Live @ Your Library event in John Grant Crabbe Library on Nov. 29. Benson took a few minutes out of his presentation to acknowledge his application to the College of Charleston. (Collin Overton/Progress)

A few minutes into his “Live @ Your Library” book talk in John Grant Crabbe Library on Thursday night, President Michael Benson addressed the elephant in the room.

“I got beat by a much smarter gentleman than I am..." Benson said. "...We're delighted to be at Eastern Kentucky; everything happens for a reason..."

Benson was announced as a finalist for the College of Charleston’s next president on Nov. 8, along with two other candidates. On Wednesday, the college’s board of trustees announced that they had chosen Andrew T. Hsu of the University of Toledo instead. Benson had not made any public statement on this until last night.

“I sincerely believe that things happen for reasons and we’re meant to be here longer, so that’s all I’ll say at this point,” Benson said after the event. “We’re committed to EKU, and this is not about a person or an individual in office; this is about how can we move this institution forward. We’ve not lost sight of our goals, which is about recruiting, retaining, graduating more students and doing it more efficiently and providing more opportunities for more students and more people, so that’s what we’re focused on.”

Benson, now in his sixth year as EKU’s president, has overseen campus revitalization projects, sweeping cuts to the university’s budget and a presidential visit during his tenure.

“Sometimes opportunities present themselves and after you think about it, pray about it and talk about it with your family, you feel like it’s something that should be pursued and do it and you accept the outcome,” Benson said.

Prior to answering questions from the Progress, Benson led a public discussion on his recently-published book, “College for the Commonwealth: A Case for Higher Education in American Democracy,” in which he co-authored with Hal Boyd, a former presidential assistant to Benson. Benson stayed after the discussion to autograph books and talk with attendees.

“The outcome is what it is, and we are firmly committed to staying here and doing the best we can,” Benson said.

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