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CCU board names Michael T. Benson as the University’s third president

October 2, 2020
Michael T. Benson has been named CCU's third president.

The Coastal Carolina University (CCU) board of trustees today named Michael T. Benson, D.Phil., the next president of CCU. He will begin serving as the University’s third president on Jan. 2, 2021.

A veteran of higher education administration, Benson served as the 13th president of Eastern Kentucky University from 2013 to 2020 and was named president emeritus of EKU in December 2019. While at EKU, he held an appointment as Professor of Government. He is currently a visiting professor in the Department of History of Science and Technology in the Krieger School of Arts & Sciences at Johns Hopkins University.

H. Delan Stevens, vice chairman of the University’s board of trustees and chairman of the board’s Presidential Search Committee, said, “We are excited to welcome Dr. Benson, and as a board, we firmly believe his leadership talents and experiences are an excellent match for Coastal Carolina University and the advancement of this dynamic institution.”

Benson expressed appreciation to the CCU board and the Presidential Search Advisory Committee for this opportunity to join Teal Nation as the next president.

“My family and I are ecstatic to be joining Coastal Carolina University,” Benson said. “We appreciate the board of trustees entrusting us with this amazing responsibility, and we pledge to do everything we can to build on the solid foundation already in place. There are limitless opportunities ahead. What a great time to be a Chanticleer. We look forward to getting involved on campus and in the community and to helping our students succeed any way we can.”

Benson’s background includes membership on the Council of Presidents of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB), on the Presidents’ Trust for the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), and on the Task Force on University Partnerships of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU). He also recently chaired three substantive change committees for universities in Texas, Georgia, and Florida for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Active in intercollegiate athletics, Benson completed a four-year term as a member of the nine-person NCAA Honors Committee, the group charged with awarding the NCAA’s highest recognitions each year. He is also a past chair of the Presidents’ Council for the Ohio Valley Conference and was elected as representative for the Ohio Valley Conference on the NCAA Division I Presidential Forum.

Prior to serving as president of Eastern Kentucky, Benson was the 15th president of Southern Utah University, where he helped secure the designation for SUU as the state’s public liberal arts and sciences university; established the Hispanic Center for Academic Excellence; gained admission into the Big Sky Conference for all athletic teams; completed new residence halls, a teacher education facility, and a science and engineering center; and directed the development and implementation of SUU’s largest and most ambitious comprehensive fundraising effort. This endeavor, named the “Future is Rising Campaign,” raised a record $105 million for SUU.

Before his tenure at Southern Utah, Benson served for five years as the 14th president of Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, where he helped raise more private money for the institution during his tenure than had been secured in the previous 115 years of the college’s history combined. Appointed president of Snow College at age 36, Benson was the youngest college president in the history of the Utah System of Higher Education.

Born in Utah and raised in Texas and Indiana, Benson has worked and studied abroad for seven years in Italy, England, and Israel. He earned his bachelor’s degree cum laude from Brigham Young University in 1990 with a major in political science and double minors in English and history. He completed his doctorate in Modern History from the University of Oxford (St. Antony’s College) in 1995, where he was a Rotary Foundation Scholar and recipient of the Oxford Graduate Overseas Fellowship. He also earned a master’s degree cum laude in non-profit administration in 2011 from the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame, where he was the recipient of the prestigious Father Theodore Hesburgh Founder’s Award. Benson is pursuing a Master of Liberal Arts at Johns Hopkins University and is on schedule to graduate in Fall 2021.

Benson’s scholarly work has focused on the development of the research university and its impact on our society. He is working on a new book, Gilman at Hopkins: The Birth of the Modern American Research University. This book is under contract with Johns Hopkins University Press with a release date of Fall 2021.

Benson and his wife, Debi, are the parents of three children – Truman, Tatum, and Talmage. He also has two children, Emma and Samuel, from a previous marriage.

Benson succeeds President David A. DeCenzo, Ph.D., who has led CCU since 2007. DeCenzo will remain available until his official retirement date of June 30, 2021, to support the new president. During his tenure, DeCenzo implemented a comprehensive strategic planning process, assured fiscal accountability through policy and practice, and promoted assessment and transparency throughout the University. CCU’s enrollment increased more than 35 percent, the academic program expanded from 39 to 94 undergraduate majors, 27 master’s degrees, two educational specialist degree programs, seven undergraduate certificates, six graduate certificates, and two Ph.D. programs. DeCenzo is credited with leading the most ambitious construction program in the University’s history. On DeCenzo’s watch, CCU’s profile has been recognized on a national level.