Coastal Carolina University President Michael T. Benson will be inducted into the Horne School of Music Hall of Fame at Snow College, where he served as president from 2002 to 2007. Benson and his wife, Debi, will attend the Dec. 1 induction ceremony in Ephraim, Utah.
“This is truly an honor to be recognized by a college we came to love so much,” said Benson. “I am very pleased to be joining my fellow hall of fame members who have done a great deal to promote and enhance the arts at Snow College and in Sanpete County.”
Since becoming CCU’s president in January 2021, Benson’s commitment to cultural arts remains unabated, as evidenced by recent events at the University. Last spring, CCU announced its recognition as an All-Steinway School and, in mid-November, hosted world-renowned flutist Valerie Coleman. The Benson family can be regularly seen attending musical theatre productions and enjoying other arts offerings whenever they can. One of Benson’s stated goals – thanks to the renewal of the Penny Sales Tax in Horry County by 68% of the voters this fall – is to construct a center for the arts on the Conway campus to serve the entire region. He says, “Imagine the impact this facility could have on our entire county as the cultural epicenter for everyone: faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community members.”
Before Benson officially began his tenure at Snow College, he secured the two largest donations in the school’s history in December 2001 – $500,000 from the Horne family and $1.5 million from the George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation – to complete funding for the Center for Performing Arts on the Ephraim campus that bears the Eccles’ name. The center has become the cultural epicenter of central Utah, hosting regular theatre productions, concerts, community events, and special guest lectures, like that of Elie Wiesel, renowned humanitarian and Nobel Peace Prize winner, in May 2006.
In addition to completing the facility, Benson secured the funds to purchase Steinway pianos, making Snow an “All-Steinway School.” The youngest of six children born to a piano-teaching mother, Benson even played a Gershwin prelude on one of the new Steinway grand pianos at the dedication ceremony, accompanied by the Snow College Jazz Ensemble. “That was one of the most memorable experiences of my life – and I’ve never been more nervous either,” recalled Benson.
Vance E. Larsen, chairman of the Horne School of Music at Snow College, said: “The donation which funded the Steinway pianos also provided much needed additional scholarship support for music students. The arts at Snow College have never had a better friend than Michael Benson.”
Benson’s focus at Snow College was not limited to just bricks and mortar and instruments as he – through the efforts of Dan and Elaine Jorgensen and Laurie Carter, now the president of Lawrence University in Wisconsin – codified an agreement with The Juilliard School in New York to host jazz workshops during the summer months in Ephraim for high school and college music students. Additionally, during his tenure at Snow, Benson raised more than $400,000 for music scholarships and saw the number of declared music majors double. For his promotion of the arts, Benson was named the 2004-2005 Outstanding Administrator by the Utah Music Educators Association.
“Benson was an energetic, visionary leader at Snow College,” said Larsen. “He was never afraid to take advantage of opportunities as they presented themselves. His leadership resulted in an era of substantial growth in enrollments and regional and national recognition for the college.”