Thinking big: Michael Benson delivers the goods at Snow, SUU

Published: Sunday, March 25 2007 12:00 a.m. MDT

Steve Benson recalls staying at his brother's house once when a troubled student showed up at the door late at night. Michael "spent an hour talking to him," says Steve.

On another occasion they were touring the Snow campus together when they spotted a student practicing piano on stage in the Eccles building. After observing for a while, Benson approached the student and introduced himself.

They talked for a while and then Benson sat by her and they played a spontaneous duet.

"He made an immediate connection," says Steve. "Here's the president of the college playing with an undergrad student."

Chase Palmer, a former Snow football player, made a similar connection with Benson. He was planning to attend medical school, but after observing Benson he changed his mind.

"I'd love to eventually follow in his footsteps and be in college administration and become a college president," he says. "It's his influence. He's an example to anyone who comes in contact with him. I've observed his association with students, and his love for what he does and his love for people. It's unmatchable."

Tanya Spencer, a single working mother, praises Benson for helping her to return to school for a degree at Snow. "He would call me and ask, 'What can I do to help?' says Spencer, who now teaches English. "He was my conscience.

"Professors told me he would call and ask how I was doing. Snow is not going to be able to replace him," Spencer says.

Benson works long days but manages to mix fun into the routine. He has taken his two children from his first marriage, Emma and Samuel, to New York to see Broadway. He travels the world, golfs with a vast cross-section of people he has met on the job, and races around the state meeting with legislators and boards and philanthropists, which accounts for his impressive collection of speeding tickets (including one he picked up en route to the press conference in which he was to be named president of Snow).

"He is so on the go, just buzzing from one flower to the next," says Steve.

Considering all his brother has accomplished already, Steve might be right when he says, "I think his star is rising fast."

E-mail: drob@desnews.com

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