Since taking the helm of his alma mater, Benson has enhanced CU’s standing as one of the nation’s leading public universities, advancing the economy, health and culture of Colorado and beyond. He is the longest-serving CU president in more than half a century.
During Benson’s tenure, CU’s research funding has reached record levels (including the new record of $1.034 billion in 2016-17), supporting the university’s research strengths in biotechnology, health care, energy, and aerospace engineering, among others. He has led efforts to promote cross-campus collaboration that have resulted in cooperative academic programs and research initiatives, most notably CU’s Biofrontiers Institute, led by Nobel laureate Tom Cech.
CU has seen its six best fundraising years (including a record $386.3 million in 2016-17) under his leadership. Benson and his wife, Marcy, chaired CU’s $1.5 billion Creating Futures fundraising campaign, which exceeded its goal in November 2013. The campaign, the largest in university history, supported scholarships, academic enhancements (endowed faculty positions, programs), research projects and capital improvements across CU’s campuses.
Benson has guided efforts to successfully institute operational efficiencies, cut bureaucracy and improve business practices at the university. CU has secured legislation in the Colorado General Assembly that has allowed it to save millions annually in areas such as procurement, insurance and construction. He has also established a number of public-private partnerships to make the university more entrepreneurial and meet the needs of businesses in Colorado and across the country.
He oversees a system with four campuses (Boulder, Colorado Springs, Denver, Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora) with some 73,000 students. CU has more than 32,000 employees. The university’s annual budget is $4.11 billion.
Before becoming CU’s president, Benson had already made his mark in business, politics, philanthropy, education and civic endeavors. He founded Benson Mineral Group in 1965, a year after earning his bachelor’s degree in Geology from CU. Throughout his business career, he has also been involved in banking, real estate, cable television and restaurants.
He has consistently been active in a variety of educational, civic and political endeavors. He was the Republican nominee for Colorado governor in 1994. Benson has received many honors recognizing his leadership in a variety of endeavors, but two are particularly notable: CU in 2004 granted him an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, and in February 2009 he was named to the Colorado Business Hall of Fame.
Benson has three children and 10 grandchildren. He was born July 4, 1938, in Chicago.