For 40 years, Shelly Goodwin has had bragging rights over her little sister. In 1983, she was named the primary feminine scholar physique president of Southern Utah College, a place they each coveted as they grew up on the campus the place their father labored.
However Mindy Benson has lastly bested her.
On Friday, Benson was named the primary feminine president within the college’s historical past, taking the helm of the college they each proceed to like.
“I don’t suppose both of us thought we’d have this legacy,” stated Benson as she accepted the place.
She choked again tears as she talked about the pleasant sibling rivalry and the way her sister and different girls led her right here. Goodwin — which is her married title — got here onstage to hug and congratulate her little sister, together with Benson’s nieces and nephews. They have been all decked out in SUU T-shirts.
This college, Benson stated, has lengthy been essential to her household. And he or she’s trying ahead to main it.
She had been serving within the place within the interim after former President Scott Wyatt stepped down precisely a yr in the past Friday.
And whereas she makes historical past as a girl on the head of SUU, she additionally joins a cadre of three different feminine college and faculty presidents in Utah — two of that are additionally firsts at their establishments (Astrid Tuminez at Utah Valley College and Noelle Cockett at Utah State College). It’s been a part of a wave of girls taking the very best positions in larger eduction within the state over the previous few years, as there was upheaval and turnover in management.
Now half of the eight public establishments listed below are led by girls, together with Deneece Huftalin at Salt Lake Neighborhood School, too.
And on Friday, SUU additionally bought its first feminine chair of its Board of Trustees with Jodi Hart-Wilson, who was a part of the committee that appointed Benson.
“We’re welcoming this subsequent chapter in our historical past,” Hart-Wilson stated to cheers.
Benson added: “Simply convey the tissues as a result of it’s going to be that type of day.” Throughout her acceptance, she stopped to say “oh jeez,” a number of instances as she began to cry from happiness.
The gang, most proudly carrying their greatest Thunderbird attire, roared and rose in a standing ovation. Benson patted the SUU pin on her lapel, over her coronary heart, in appreciation.
“It’s humbling,” she stated. “This yr has been a outstanding yr, and we now have many outstanding years earlier than us. Collectively, we are able to create a campus and a tradition and a neighborhood that we’re all happy with.”
She takes over because the seventeenth chief of the Cedar Metropolis college that’s celebrating its a hundred and twenty fifth yr in operation.
Over the past six years, SUU has grown from 8,200 college students to 13,000. That features a achieve of roughly 1,300 college students through the pandemic, when different faculties noticed vital losses.
Within the final three years, regardless of that, tuition has remained remarkably flat — with no will increase, on the request of the earlier president. The worth is now about $6,700 per yr for the common in-state scholar. That’s $3,000 lower than the costliest public college within the state, the College of Utah, which competes with SUU regionally in analysis.
The varsity additionally not too long ago launched a brand new and one-of-its-kind bachelor’s diploma on the whole research that’s completely on-line.
Benson is predicted to proceed that innovation and develop it in new methods.
And he or she’s uniquely positioned, as somebody born and raised within the Cedar Metropolis neighborhood, to take action. Her household has been right here for generations and been at SUU for almost as lengthy, with Benson simply the newest to have a profession there.
“She has confirmed her dedication to the college,” stated Jesselie Anderson, the vice chair of the Utah Board of Larger Training, which appoints presidents for Utah’s schools and universities.
Benson earned her bachelor’s diploma in zoology from SUU in 1994. She returned to finish her grasp’s in skilled communication there, too, in 2006.
And her late father, Ken Benson, was the director of scholar actions on the faculty, a place Benson additionally later held.
“If he have been right here at the moment, he’d be crying like a child, like he at all times did,” Mindy Benson stated. “Clearly, I inherited these genes.”
Her mother, she added with fun, would inform them each: “Get it collectively. We have now work to do, individuals.”
Benson recalled spending a lot of her childhood exploring the campus. She talked about one late administrator, Bessie Dover, lastly shifting her cuckoo clock after what number of instances Benson would reset it as a child.
She stated she needs all college students from all backgrounds to “really feel valued and secure and a part of the household right here,” identical to she has.
“You’re the soul of who we’re and what we do,” she stated.
For the final eight years, earlier than she was the interim president, Benson had been serving because the vp of alumni and neighborhood relations. For the previous 14 years, she’s been instructing on campus, whereas additionally working for an occasion planning firm, LogiCom. She has helped handle presidential and gubernatorial inaugurations, nationwide political conventions, concert events and charity marathons.
“I hope we haven’t allow you to down with this occasion,” joked Anderson.
However Benson stated she couldn’t have deliberate it higher herself.
She talked about her efforts on SUU’s campus to enhance entry to psychological well being companies for college kids. She additionally led one of the crucial profitable legislative classes for the college in current historical past, with the college receiving the very best state funding that it has in a long time. Benson has moreover targeted her efforts on job creation within the southern Utah area for college kids graduating from the college.
“I’m certain her expertise is what SUU wants to steer it ahead,” Anderson added.
The neighborhood has welcomed her simply as a lot, with a number of scholar teams lobbying for her to be chosen as president. She was additionally named by college students this yr because the “Mentor of Yr” at SUU, and by the Cedar Metropolis Chamber of Commerce as “Girl of the Yr.”
On Friday, she stood in entrance of a stained glass home windows with the phrases “Studying lives ceaselessly” behind her as she realized a dream that has lengthy been her aim. And now she has final bragging rights.