About the President - Coastal Carolina University
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Michael T. Benson

President Benson

Michael T. Benson, a veteran of higher education administration, is the third president of Coastal Carolina University. He began his tenure on Jan. 1, 2021.

Benson previously 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 recently served as 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 CCU’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.”

"My family and I are ecstatic to be joining Coastal Carolina University,” said Benson, who also holds the title of professor of history at CCU. 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.”

Before 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.

Benson previously 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.

Benson’s background includes membership on the Council of Presidents of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, on the Presidents’ Trust for the Association of American Colleges and Universities, and on the Task Force on University Partnerships of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. He also recently chaired four substantive change committees for universities in Texas, Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

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.

President Benson with his wife, Debi, and their children Truman, Tatum, and Talmage.

President Benson with his wife, Debi, and their children Truman, Tatum, and Talmage.

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 University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business, where he was the recipient of the prestigious Father Theodore Hesburgh Founder’s Award. Benson is two courses shy of completing a Master of Liberal Arts at Johns Hopkins University and will graduate in Fall 2021.

Benson’s scholarly work has focused on the development of the research university and its impact on society. He recently completed his third book, this one titled, Gilman at Hopkins: The Birth of the Modern American Research University. It will be released by Johns Hopkins University Press this year.

Benson and his wife, Debi, are the parents of three children – Truman, Tatum, and Talmage. His two older children from a previous marriage, Emma and Samuel, are both students at Brigham Young University.