Bruce D. Benson
|Bruce D. Benson|
|21st [[President of the University of Colorado]]|
|Preceded by||Hank Brown|
|Born||July 4, 1938
|Alma mater||University of Colorado|
|Profession||Oil executive, University President|
Bruce D. Benson became president of the University of Colorado in March 2008. The CU university system encompasses four campuses: CU-Boulder, CU Denver, CU Colorado Springs and CU Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colo. More than 58,000 students were enrolled in degree programs at CU in fall 2013; an additional 9,000 students took classes for credit at CU. The university’s annual budget is $3.04 billion.
Before his appointment in 2008, Benson was a successful businessman who was active in a variety of educational, civic and political activities at the state and national levels. In 1965, he founded Benson Mineral Group, an oil and gas exploration and production company. Since then, Benson’s business interests have expanded to include banking, mortgage servicing, real estate development and management, geothermal power, manufacturing, trucking, restaurants and cable television. In 2009 he was inducted into the Colorado Business Hall of Fame.
Benson has sat on boards of directors of dozens of companies, including United States Exploration, American Land Lease Corporation, Western Capital Investment Corporation and First Interstate Bank of Denver.
Three different Colorado governors have named Benson to educational initiatives and governing boards, all of which he chaired: the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (1985–89), Metropolitan State College Board of Trustees (2003–07), P-20 Education Coordinating Council (2007–08) and the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Panel for Higher Education (2001–03). Outside Colorado, he was board chair of the Berkshire School in Massachusetts (1984–94) and also served on the board of Smith College (1988–95).
During Benson’s tenure, CU’s research funding has reached record levels in each of the past several years (including a best-ever $884 million in 2010-11), supporting the university’s research strengths in biotechnology, health care, renewable and sustainable 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.
Benson and his wife, Marcy Head Benson, chaired CU’s $1.5 billion Creating Futures fundraising campaign, which was publicly announced in April 2011 and concluded in November 2013 with $1.53 billion in donations to support 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.
Benson earned his bachelor’s degree in geology from CU in 1964. Benson has received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from CU in 2004.
Benson was selected as CU president amid concerns among the CU faculty and community members because to his lack of academic pedigree, climate change denial, close connection to partisan politics (Benson unsuccessfully ran for Governor of Colorado as the Republican nominee in 1994), and close ties to the oil and gas industry.
In 2012 after the State of Colorado passed Colorado Amendment 64 legalizing the use of recreational marijuana, Benson used student and alumni email lists to decry the passage of the amendment, commenting on his personal disapproval of the amendment and erroneously suggesting that the CU system would lose federal funding because of its passage. 
Benson was the chairman of the Colorado Republican Party from 1987 to 1993, and was the Republican nominee for Colorado Governor in an unsuccessful 1994 bid.
In addition to his wife, Marcy, he has three children and 10 grandchildren. He was born July 4, 1938, in Chicago.
- Martin, Jim. "CU can do better than Bruce Benson". Denver Post.
- Rubino, Joe (12/08/2012). "Jared Polis blasts Bruce Benson for claims CU could lose $1B over Amendment 64". Boulder Daily Camera.
University Relations, Office of the President, University of Colorado