Special to the Register
Dr. Michael Benson, who will become Eastern Kentucky University’s 12th president on Aug. 1, was honored with a reception Monday at a Lexington country club hosted by the university’s board of regents and foundation board.
Many local and state dignitaries attended at the Idle Hour Country Club event, including Gov. Steve Beshear.
In all, a group of approximately 150 government, educational and business leaders attended, including Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, Richmond Mayor Jim Barnes, Madison Judge/Executive Kent Clark, state Rep. Rita Smart, D-Richmond, and state Sen. Jared Carpenter, R-Berea.
Among other attendees were: Commerce Lexington Executive Director Bob Quick, Central Bank President Luther Deaton, Baptist Health-Lexington President/CEO Bill Sisson and Baptist Health-Richmond President Todd Jones.
EKU Regents Chair Craig Turner, presented EKU with a gift of $100,000, made possible by donations from several regents, foundation board members and other friends of the Eastern.
The gift matches an earlier gift of $50,000 by Benson and wife Debi to establish an endowed scholarship fund. The Benson gift also was matched by donations from several friends of the Bensons.
The scholarship fund will be directed to EKU’s Model Laboratory School to use at its discretion for financial aid for students and families. The goal is to raise $250,000 for the fund, according to a statement from the university.
Beshear praised Eastern for finding a person of Benson’s qualifications to be its 12th president. The governor also thanked the regents and university for taking a “hard look” at EKU’s finances and “making strategic decisions” on where best to invest in “Kentucky’s students.” He added that other universities were now following Eastern’s lead as they examine their own finances.
The governor then welcomed Benson to Kentucky and told the audience that in a meeting immediately before the reception, he promised Eastern’s incoming president his full support and that of the commonwealth.
Benson thanked retiring EKU President Doug Whitlock for his many years of service to the university, including the last six as its leader, and vowed that he and his administration would work tirelessly to build on the successes of previous administrations by moving Eastern to the “next level of academic excellence."
“No one will work as hard for you as my team and I will,” Benson said.
Benson has served as president of Southern Utah University since 2006.