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Richard Benson named finalist for president of The University of Texas at Dallas

AUSTIN — The University of Texas System Board of Regents named Richard Benson, Ph.D., currently the dean of Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering, as the sole finalist for the presidency of The University of Texas at Dallas.

The regents voted to select Benson at a special board meeting Monday. The decision followed an executive session where regents interviewed three candidates and considered recommendations of a presidential search advisory committee that reviewed nominations and applications for the position. The search for a new leader for UT Dallas began last summer, when former President David E. Daniel moved from his post at UT Dallas to serve as deputy chancellor of the UT System.

Benson has served as dean of Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering since 2005 and has overseen a period of record growth during the last decade. The number of applicants to Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering has nearly doubled during Benson’s tenure. Also, the College of Engineering climbed to its highest ever ranking in the National Science Foundation’s report on engineering schools’ research expenditures. The 2016 survey, reporting on figures for fiscal year 2014, shows the college at eighth place with $228.6 million in research expenditures, ahead of prestigious universities including Stanford, Ohio State, Illinois and the University of California at Berkeley.

UT System Chancellor William H. McRaven said the selection was not easy for the Board of Regents who reviewed an impressive list of potential presidents.

“The search advisory committee did an outstanding job in producing truly world-class candidates for the Board of Regents to consider for this very important role,” McRaven said. “We knew that the next president of UT Dallas would have big shoes to fill and I believe the regents have selected the perfect candidate to continue UT Dallas’ meteoric trajectory as it pursues Tier I status. Dr. Benson is an accomplished leader and is perfectly suited to lead UT Dallas.”

Prior to his current appointment, Benson was head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Pennsylvania State University beginning in 1995. He previously served as chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Rochester and prior to that was the associate dean for graduate studies in the university's College of Engineering and Applied Science.

Benson's research at the University of Rochester was primarily focused on the mechanics of highly flexible structures. He has twice been honored by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). In 1984, he received the ASME Henry Hess Award, which honors a research publication by a young author. He also became a fellow of ASME in 1998.

“The prospect of becoming president at UT Dallas is an honor and an exciting challenge, both personally and professionally. I look forward to our work together as we become a leading public global force in innovation, research and education,” Benson said. “Individuals create an institution and at UT Dallas I see world-class faculty, dedicated staff, committed students and engaged alumni. These are the ingredients for success. My wife Leslie and I are excited to make Dallas our home and the UT community our friends.” 

Benson's teaching interests are in structural mechanics, design, and applied mathematics. In 1981 he was honored as the top teacher in the College of Engineering and Applied science at the University of Rochester.

Benson holds a bachelor of science in engineering degree in aerospace and mechanical science from Princeton University, a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Virginia, and a doctorate in mechanical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.

“I am confident that Dr. Benson is the right person to lead UT Dallas, a renowned academic institution that conducts innovative research, offers new discoveries and provides a world-class education for its students,” Board Chairman Paul Foster said. “Dr. Benson made it clear in his interview that he understands the impressive trajectory of UT Dallas and we believe he possesses the leadership, intellect and charisma to stimulate even more growth and advancement for this wonderful institution.”

Under state law, university governing boards must name finalists for a presidency at least 21 days before making an appointment. During that time, UT System leaders will be coordinating meetings, giving stakeholders the opportunity to hear from Benson.

About The University of Texas System

Educating students, providing care for patients, conducting groundbreaking basic, applied and clinical research, and serving the needs of Texans and the nation for more than 130 years, The University of Texas System is one of the largest public university systems in the United States. With 14 institutions and an enrollment of more than 217,000, the UT System confers more than one-third of the state’s undergraduate degrees, educates almost two-thirds of the state’s health care professionals annually and accounts for almost 70 percent of all research funds awarded to public institutions in Texas. The UT System has an annual operating budget of $16.9 billion (FY 2016) including $3 billion in sponsored programs funded by federal, state, local and private sources. With about 20,000 faculty – including Nobel laureates – and more than 70,000 health care professionals, researchers, student advisors and support staff, the UT System is one of the largest employers in the state.

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