Michael T. Benson
Michael T. Benson is a college and university administrator, currently serving as president of Eastern Kentucky University (beginning August 1, 2013). He is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Benson was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, on February 28, 1965, to Mark and Lela Benson. He is a grandson of Ezra Taft Benson, former president of the Church of Jesus Christ.
Benson was raised primarily in Texas. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Brigham Young University, a master’s degree in non-profit administration from the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame, and his PhD in modern Middle Eastern History from St. Antony’s College at Oxford University.
He is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post as a featured blogger on higher education issues. He is the author of numerous journal articles and the book Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel (Praeger, 1997). He has also served as a consulting historian and essayist for both the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles and the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri. Benson has worked and studied abroad for seven years in Italy, England, and Israel.
Prior to his appointment at EKU, he was president of Southern Utah University and professor of political science. He was also president of Snow College and special assistant to the President at the University of Utah, a cabinet-level position. He served on the seven-person Utah Appellate Court Nominating Commission (from 2009 to 2013) and on the Board of Advisors for the Center for Policy Analysis at the American Council for Education in Washington, D.C. Benson currently serves as Chair of the Presidents' Council for the Ohio Valley Conference.
Benson plays the piano, is a long-distance runner and avid golfer, and plays basketball; he lettered for the Oxford basketball team and played on the BYU junior varsity team. He worked as a junior staff member for Senator Orrin Hatch and was a fundraiser at the University of Utah. Benson and his wife Debi are the parents of three children. He had two children with his first wife, Celia. He served as a missionary in Rome, Italy.
Benson received national and worldwide attention for shoveling the driveway of one of his students. When an atypical snowstorm hit Richmond, Kentucky, on February 17, 2015, and classes were not cancelled, many students used social media to complain. Some offered Benson a financial compensation if he would cancel class. Student Devan Dannelly sent a tweet to Benson that read ““Yo @EKUPrez come shovel my driveway/road and I’ll come to class tomorrow . . . deal???” and Benson was intrigued. He was shoveling his own driveway at the time he received the tweet and he decided to do it. He told his wife, “I just want to see the look on his face when I show up to shovel his driveway.” So he asked the student for his address and arrived within the hour and, with one of his friends, he shoveled the driveway. Dannelly and his mother offered him a meal, which he accepted. One of the tweets that the student posted later read, “The Prez has inspired me . . . who wants their driveway shoveled???” Other students followed suite and posted pictures of sidewalks they had cleared. Benson said, “I had no idea it was going to go like this, but if students are somehow encouraged to help others and pitch in, then that is a very positive by-product.”