Benson’s Influence Reaches Far Beyond Cedar City

Published: February 09, 2011 | Read Time: 3 minutes

Among Utah’s more than 2 million residents, Southern Utah University President Michael T. Benson has been named by Utah Business magazine as one of the top 100 most influential people in the state when it comes to social progress and forward thinking.

This is an honor that is only given out every three years.

Benson and the other 99 individuals chosen represent people who are helping shape the “economic, political and social climate of the state,” according to the article in Utah Business. “These are the people who are responsible for creating the widely held perception that Utah is the most business-friendly state in the nation.”

Benson said he is “honored to be included in a list with people I greatly admire for their contributions to our state.” He continued, “My hope is to use whatever influence I have to help move Southern Utah University forward and to continually improve the experience of students on our campus.”

Benson’s colleagues attest such recognition is “not surprising,” said SUU Provost Brad Cook.

Cook explained, “In his short time at SUU, President Michael Benson has been the rocket fuel behind SUU’s extraordinary educational ascent. He exhibits the qualities that are demanded of leaders in the 21st century: self-confidence, integrity, courage, smarts, passion, vision and flexibility to succeed in a world undergoing dramatic and rapid changes.”

Just under four years ago, Benson was welcomed to campus under the inaugural slogan, “The future is rising.” And it has.

Shortly after arriving on campus, Benson announced the University’s most ambitious fundraising campaign in history – the benefits of which will forever enhance the value of an SUU education.

Under his leadership, Southern Utah University’s campus has also expanded with new facilities that include Cedar Hall, the Sterling R. Church Auditorium, the Small Business Resource Center, South Hall, the Carter Carillon, a restored Old Main and the new Science Center, which is currently under construction. Plans for the Southern Utah Museum of Art, a new business building and a new outdoor theatre for the Utah Shakespeare Festival are also in the works.

Beyond the bricks and mortar, under Benson’s watch, Southern Utah University has received some of the nation’s highest accolades, including a nod for civic engagement from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching as well as an invitation to the Big Sky Athletic Conference.

Benson has also been integrally involved in Provost Cook’s plans for the “Academic Roadmap: 2010-2013,” which aims to set Southern Utah University apart as the state’s premier public liberal arts and sciences institution.

Such highlights are only the beginning when it comes to Benson’s positive influence on the Thunderbird, Cedar City and state communities, as those who work most closely with Benson – members of SUU’s President’s Council – can attest.

Of his leadership and vision, Vice President for Finance and Facilities Dorian Page said, “President Benson is the most optimistic, enthusiastic and truly caring leader I have known. His zest for and vision of what SUU and Utah will become is inspiring.”

Inspiring enough to draw talent from across the nation to a small college town in southern Utah, as was the case for Vice President for Student Services Donna Eddleman. Said Eddleman, “Mike Benson is the reason I came to SUU. He has a passion for higher education, a love of community and a vision for SUU that is progressive, exciting and ambitious.”

Of his potential influence on Southern Utah University’s students, Eddleman said, “President Benson is a humble man committed to education, family and community; he is a tremendous role model for the students on our campus.”

Clearly, SUU’s Thunderbirds are willing and ready to fly to success under Benson’s leadership.

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