Commonwealth Journal

February 10, 2014

Benson: Ties between EKU, Pulaski County are close

by Bill Mardis
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset — The new president of Eastern Kentucky University during a speech Tuesday to the Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce lauded the Richmond-based university’s long partnership with Somerset and Pulaski County.

A houseful of raised hands responded during the February membership meeting of the chamber when Dr. Michael T. Benson asked EKU alumni in attendance at The Center for Rural Development to identify themselves. Benson said a total of 6,277 EKU alumni live in Pulaski County –– 3,499 outside the corporate limits of Somerset and  2,778 in the city.

Currently, 393 students from Pulaski County are enrolled at EKU’s Richmond campus and 90 students are attending EKU’s Somerset campus.

Stressing the importance of higher education, Benson related improvements under way at the Richmond campus. The projects include a new science building, campus beautification and razing of Combs Hall, named for professional baseball Hall or Famer Earle Combs.

Benson said a new baseball facility will be built and named in honor of Combs who played baseball at Eastern, beginning in 1917. He hit .591 during his last season at the college, then known as Eastern Kentucky State Normal School. After college, Combs joined the New York Yankees and played his entire career for the Bronx Bombers.

Described as EKU's "next great, visionary leader," Benson, the 12th president of EKU, maintains a distinguished record of success as an innovative executive.

 Prior to his chief executive role at EKU, he was the 15th president of Southern Utah University where he successfully directed the development and implementation of SUU's largest and most ambitious comprehensive campaign, the $100 million "Future is Rising Campaign."