C of C President George Benson to step down in 2014

College of Charleston President Dr. George Benson plans to step down June 30, 2014 and return to the classroom. Buy this photo

The College of Charleston soon will begin the search for a new president after George Benson announced Friday that he would step down in June 2014.

Benson, 67, who has held the college’s top post since 2007, will be leaving several months before the end of his current contract, which runs through Feb. 28, 2015. He said he planned to take a year sabbatical after he stepped down, and then return as a faculty member in the college’s School of Business.

Greg Padgett, chairman of the college’s Board of Trustees, said the board has seven new members who need to learn a bit more about the college and what being on the board is all about before the group begins a presidential search. But, he said, he expects the group to develop a selection process in the coming months that is “thorough, fair and inclusive.”

Padgett also said the board today will vote on a resolution authorizing him to amend Benson’s current contract. If that’s approved, he said, the board should be able to complete and release the amended contract soon.

Padgett said the board is satisfied with Benson’s performance, and that it did not ask Benson to step down early. On recent performance evaluations, the board rated Benson between 3.9 and 4.7 on a scale of 1 to 5.

And, Padgett said, having the current president’s contract end on June 30 is better for the college. That date is more in line with the academic calendar, he said, and is a better time for a new president to begin.

Benson, whose annual salary is about $366,000, with $166,000 of that coming from the state and $200,000 from the College of Charleston Foundation, said, “I’ve had a 24-7 job for the past 30 years and I want a normal life.”

He also said he comes from a family of educators and it always had been his plan to return the classroom after he stepped down as the college’s president.

Benson, a former dean at the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business, said one of the highlights of his leadership at the College of Charleston was developing a strong, successful fundraising team. The group brought in $75 million in recent years, he said, and he hopes that by the time he steps down, the number will be closer to $100 million.

He also said he was proud of boosting the college’s profile nationally and improving facilities at the school’s Dixie Plantation in Meggett. And, he said, moving the college from the Southern Conference to the Colonial Athletic Association, a controversial move among some board members, was a boon for the college.

He also said he faced several challenges, including declining state support.

The next president hopefully will continue the college’s growth and help it to become a stronger research university, he said. “We are on a radar screen we have never seen before.”

Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.

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