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CCU’s President Benson pens new book about the first president of Johns Hopkins University

November 8, 2022
CCU President Michael T. BensonCCU President Michael T. Benson holds a copy of his new book.CCU President Michael T. Benson has published three books.

Coastal Carolina University President Michael T. Benson is the author of a newly-published book, Daniel Coit Gilman and the Birth of the American Research University. In it, according to Johns Hopkins University Press, the book’s publisher, Benson claims that Gilman’s enduring legacy will always be as the father of the modern research university – a uniquely American invention that remains the envy of the entire world.

Benson will discuss and sign copies of his new book during CCU’s Faculty Scholar Lecture Series event on Thursday, Nov. 17, at 4 p.m. in the Edwards Building Recital Hall. The event is free and open to the public.

“The experience of writing about a true educational visionary was an honor, and I hope this volume will bring to a wider audience not only Gilman’s story, but also the remarkable institution that is the American research university,” said Benson, who also is a professor of history at CCU. “There is nothing to compare to our nation’s research universities and the impact their discoveries and innovations continue to have on society.”

Benson also explains in the book how many university elements that are commonplace today – the graduate fellowships, the emphasis on primary investigations and discovery, the funding of top laboratory and research spaces, the scholarly journals, the university presses, the sprawling health sciences complexes with teaching hospitals – were put in place by Gilman at Johns Hopkins University (JHU).

In his review of the book, Jonathan Cole, the John Mitchell Mason Professor of Columbia University and former provost and dean of faculties at Columbia, wrote:

“With the opening of Johns Hopkins University in 1876, a century after Independence, the American research university was born. The force behind the great transformation was Hopkins’ founding president, Daniel Coit Gilman. Until now, too little has been written about Gilman. Now, finally, Michael T. Benson has written the definitive biography of the man who changed our educational paradigm almost single-handedly. Gilman started the revolution. … This book should be read by anyone interested in the history of education and the evolution of American society.”

Gilman’s career included serving as the third president of the University of California; the first president of Johns Hopkins University, a position he held for 25 years; and as one of the original founders of the Association of American Universities. Handpicked by Andrew Carnegie himself, Gilman also served as the first president of the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

In addition to his latest work, Benson is the author of Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel and the coauthor of College for the Commonwealth: A Case for Higher Education in American Democracy.

Benson graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in political science and double minors in English and history from Brigham Young University in 1990. 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 nonprofit administration in 2011 from the University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business, where he was the recipient of the prestigious Father Theodore Hesburgh Founder’s Award. In 2021, Benson completed a Master of Liberal Arts from Johns Hopkins University, where he was initiated into the Association of Graduate Liberal Studies Programs National Honor Society.