Dr. Steven Bennion Announces his Retirement from his Presidency at SUU

Published: April 04, 2006 | Read Time: 5 minutes

Dr. Steven D. Bennion, president of Southern Utah University, publicly announced Monday afternoon, his plan to retire, effective mid-June.

He gave the news to a 500+-group of SUU employees called together at 4 p.m. in the Great Hall of the Haze Hunter Conference Center on campus.

Bennion states, on behalf of his wife, Marj and himself: “After serious reflection, Marj and I have decided to retire and conclude our service at SUU in the middle of June of this year. We have loved serving at the University, seeing it grow and develop, working with outstanding students, faculty, staff and administration, and with so many terrific alumni and friends of the University. We are grateful for the leadership and support of many board members (Regents, Trustees, and Fellows), legislators, governors, and many friends, supporters and community members who have made a pivotal difference during our tenure at SUU. This is a wonderful University and we have been honored to be a part of it for nearly the past decade.”

He further notes that there are many things he and Marj hope to accomplish in the next chapter of their lives, which will entail serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “We have always hoped and planned to serve a mission for our church, so we were very happy to accept a recent call and invitation to serve as President of the New York, New York City South Mission of the LDS Church, effective July 1 of this year.”

During a professional career that began in 1967, Bennion has spent the past 39 years working principally in higher education administrations. For the past 24 years, he has served as president of three institutions: SUU, Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho), and Snow College in Ephraim, Utah. He began his services as president at SUU in 1997. “Our overarching goal at SUU has been to continue to build and strengthen the quality of this remarkable institution and to serve our students well,” the 64-year-old scholar declares.

President Bennion has significantly served SUU over the past nine years. One of the greatest accomplishments he and his colleagues achieved—and one that he is particularly connected to--has been the approval, funding and groundbreaking for a new Teacher Education building. He lobbied diligently through six sessions of the state legislature for this new structure to adequately house the hallmark academic program of SUU—the College of Education. Just a few days ago,he helped garner $1 million from the legislature to go toward the building inflation which has soared upward. Old Main, the oldest facility on campus and the original home of the first program of the institution—teacher education—will be renovated to also be used for teacher preparation. Moreover, this achievement is particularly dear to Bennion, and a natural legacy it seems, as his grandfather, Milton Bennion, was appointed in 1897 as the first president (principal) of the Branch Normal School, which has evolved into SUU. Milton’s grandson ushered in the second 100 years of the institution, and now departs by leaving the means for the next high-quality teacher education center.

Under Bennion’s leadership the last decade, SUU has also received a new state-of-the art physical education facility, and a new South Hall that houses faculty, staff and learning labs for the College of Performing and Visual Arts, which by the way, is one of two new colleges formed during President Bennion’s tenure. The other is the College of Computing, Engineering and Technology which contains the new and special bachelor’s program in Integrated Engineering—the only one of its kind in the state, and one of a few similar programs in the country. Incidentally, it was within the plans for the J.L. Sorenson Physical Education Building that President Bennion and his Council acquired the property on the corner of 300 West and University Boulevard (a new street name to accompany Thunderbird-spirited street signs surrounding campus) on which the old Cedar City middle and high schools once set. Additionally, the contemporary and technologically-savvy student residence, the Eccles Living Learning Center, was materialized with the gentle but strong guidance of Bennion.

Several new baccalaureate degree programs and four new master’s programs have bolstered SUU’s academic menu since Bennion came to SUU. Cognizant of its destiny to be matched with SUU, Bennion supported the institutionalization of a bachelor’s program in Outdoor Recreation in Parks and Tourism, which will begin this Fall. Again, keenly aware of its timeliness, it is credit due to the Bennion team that the state’s only master program in Forensic Science will commence next semester. An additional academic coup was the transition of the four-year Nursing degree program from Weber State University to SUU. After nearly 30 years of cooperation with WSU’s nursing program, SUU completed its own program with an innovative curriculum, taking complete ownership of the program in 2005.

Not finally by any means, the fruits of more of Bennion’s dedicated and sincere labors will be harvested on Founders’ Day, March 25, with the grand opening of the Michael O. Leavitt Collection in the SUU Library, accompanying the re-grand opening of the Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service. The recent gift of SUU’s first endowed professorial chair, given by Beverley Taylor Sorenson, will be celebrated as well during this particularly momentous Founders’ Day festivity, along with an unprecedented naming event, all due specifically to Steven Bennion’s personalized ambassadorship of SUU.

Besides his academic and administrative achievements, President Bennion is known for his uncanny memory, infectious laughter and his warm high-five’s to employees and students alike as he roams across campus.

President and Mrs. Bennion really look upon this shift in endeavors as more of a change in focus rather than retirement. He concludes, “With the help of wonderful colleagues, terrific students, and many wise board members, public officials and friends of the University, we have loved serving the inspiring cause of SUU. We certainly hope the ground plowed during our service will make it better for those who follow.”

Plans for finding a new president for the University will be announced by the Board of Regents in the near future. President Bennion will depart from SUU in mid-June; an interim president, to be named by the Board of Regents, will fill the president’s position until a permanent candidate from a national search is selected to take the helm on or as near-after July 1, 2006, as possible.

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