- President of Eastern Kentucky University, Professor of Government
- Department: Government
- Office: Coates 107
- Mailing Address: Coates CPO 1
- Email: Michael.Benson@eku.edu
- Phone: 859-622-2101
President Benson became EKU’s President in 2013, but he has spent the previous 13 years working in University Administration, and has always had a knack for executive activities. After graduating Brigham Young University, he worked for a year as a legislative correspondence liaison for Senator Orin Hatch on the Senate Labor and Human Relations Committee (now the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee). As liaison, he wrote speeches and letters for the senator and the committee. President Benson had aspired to be a lawyer, but after a 1989 trip to Israel, decided instead to pursue a PhD in Middle Eastern History from St. Antony’s College, Oxford. He had been interested in the development of Israel and the modern Middle East –and especially the influence of the American President on their development. His supervisor, however, suggested he focus on FDR and Truman for his dissertation. President Benson has since had a great admiration for Harry Truman.
After receiving his doctorate, President Benson briefly worked as a roofer before taking a position as assistant to University of Utah President James Bernard Machin. His duties were similar to what he had done for Senator Hatch, and he decided he could be a University President himself. He began as President of Snow College, and then was President of Southern Utah University. He liked living in Utah, but when the EKU Presidency was offered to him, he was happy to come here. He called serving as EKU’s President a once in a career opportunity.
President Benson noted that it was important to him that he remained grounded in the real mission of the university –teaching students. For that reason, in addition to his duties as President, he has also continued to teach. Throughout his career he has taught International Relations, Comparative Politics, and the Presidency. In Spring 2014 he will be developing an honors/political science class on the Congress and the Presidency with Kentucky 6thDistrict Representative Andy Barr.
Away from the University, President Benson is a former competitive runner, who ran a marathon in 2 hours and 41 minutes when he was 19, and enjoys traveling. Today, he still runs, and he still likes to travel. On his way to EKU from Southern Utah, he stopped in Independence, Missouri to see the Truman Library again. He is also not the only high-achieving member of his family –his brother, Stephen, is the 1993 Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist for the Arizona Republic. “Life,” he said, “is about being presented with opportunities, and taking them.”