Presidential Finalists Announced
Following an extensive national search, the EKU Presidential Search and Screening Committee and the EKU Board of Regents are pleased to announce the three finalists for the 12th President of Eastern Kentucky University. We are excited about their upcoming campus visits and invite you to welcome each candidate warmly to campus and the community.
Dr. Michael T. Benson is the 15th President of Southern Utah University, a position he has held since November 2006. In addition, he holds the rank of full Professor within the Department of Political Science.
Born in Salt Lake City and raised in Texas, Dr. Benson has nearly 20 years of administrative experience in higher education, over a decade of which has been spent as an institutional president.
Prior to his tenure at SUU, he was the 14th President of Snow College where he helped raise more money in his five-year tenure than in the previous 117 years of the institution’s history combined. Currently, Dr. Benson is leading efforts at SUU to raise $30 million for the Southern Utah Center for the Arts; to date over $28 million of the required amount has been secured.
He has also directed the development and implementation of SUU’s largest and most ambitious comprehensive campaign, The Future is Rising. Over $85 million of the $100 million goal has already been raised and pledged. In December 2012, Dr. Benson announced the largest gift in the University’s history – $5 million – for the construction of a new Shakespeare Theatre. This news came on the heels of a $4 million gift to establish a scholarship and research endowment within the College of Science and Engineering.
During the 2009 Legislative session, Benson was successful in procuring state support for SUU’s Science Center – an expanded undergraduate classroom and laboratory complex totaling nearly $20 million in new construction.
Named by Utah Business magazine in 2011 as among the “100 Most Influential People in Utah,” Dr. Benson serves as Vice Chair of the Big Sky Conference Presidents’ Council, as well as on the Wells Fargo Southwest Utah Board of Advisors, the Rocky Mountain Power Regional Advisory Board, and on the Utah Appellate Nominating Commission.
Dr. Benson has worked and studied abroad for seven years in Italy, England and Israel. He is also a regular contributor to the Huffington Post as a featured blogger on higher education issues. His book, Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel (Praeger 1997) has been hailed as a landmark work in the area of American foreign policy and the U.S. presidency.
He completed his doctorate in modern Middle Eastern history from the University of Oxford (St. Antony’s College) where he was a recipient of the Oxford Graduate Overseas Fellowship and a Rotary Foundation Scholarship. He also earned a master’s degree cum laude from the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame in non-profit administration, and a B.A. cum laude from Brigham Young University with a major in political science and double minor in English and history.
Dr. Benson and his wife Debi (Woods) are the parents of three young children: Truman (6), Tatum (4), and Talmage (2). He is also the father of Emma (16) and Samuel (13).
Dr. Gregg Lassen is Vice President for Finance and Operations for Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, a position he has held since February 2011.
Prior to moving to Beaumont, Dr. Lassen served as Executive Vice President at the University of Texas at Tyler, and Vice President for Finance at the University of Southern Mississippi.
Higher education is a second career for Dr. Lassen. He enjoyed 18 years in the energy industry in a variety of positions across all facets of the business working for Amoco and then BP following the merger of those two companies. Among his duties were work in finance, audit, marketing, regulatory affairs, international business development, and management in both upstream and downstream divisions worldwide.
Dr. Lassen has developed a track record for strategic management and analysis at regional universities facing significant financial constraints. His work has resulted in the successful implementation of cost saving measures while simultaneously improving operational performance. The resulting improvement in the financial condition of the university allows for a renewed focus on growth.
At Lamar University, Dr. Lassen has led the University community through a new Campus Master Plan that includes a $15-million project to renovate an outdated, unused residence hall and convert it into offices for administrative services and a student service center.
While at the University of Texas at Tyler, Dr. Lassen was responsible for business affairs. Student affairs was later added to his administrative oversight which included the offices of admissions, registrar, and housing, and a Division III athletics program.
Dr. Lassen helped create for the University of Texas at Tyler a strategic enrollment management department and a one-stop shop for student services. He also led a committee and engaged a market research firm to enhance an understanding of the University’s brand and to improve its student recruiting performance in the Dallas metropolitan area.
Dr. Lassen has an appreciation for the academic life of a campus and continues to teach and act as an advisor to a variety of student groups. He also is active in community service having served in leadership roles at the Texas Energy Museum, Leadership Tyler Executive Program and Leadership Utah.
He completed his Ph.D. in political science and international affairs from the University of Southern Mississippi, a law degree from the University of Houston, and an MBA and B.B.A. from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
Dr. Lassen and his wife Jackie are the parents of three daughters, aged 14 to 20. All three daughters have been actively involved in the performing arts and in the equestrian sport of eventing.
Dr. Alan T. Shao serves as Dean of the School of Business at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, a position he has held since March 2009. During his time as Dean, he served as the Jack Tate Distinguished Professor at the College of Charleston from 2009 to 2011.
As Dean of the College of Charleston’s School of Business, Dr. Shao has established an MBA degree program, obtained AACSB reaccreditation for the school, developed new academic majors, significantly raised funding to record breaking levels for the School of Business, created the School of Business “Wall of Honor” to recognize philanthropy and long-term impact, and increased globalization throughout the School of Business.
Born in Norfolk, Virginia, Dr. Shao came to Charleston after nearly 20 years at the University of North Carolina Charlotte, where he was North Carolina Ports Professor of Marketing and Associate Dean of Professional and Global Programs. While at UNC Charlotte, he created self-supporting graduate business programs in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Mexico and Denmark.
In 2005, the Journal of Advertising named Dr. Shao one of the most prolific contributors to advertising research. In his career, he has published more than 50 articles in leading journals, made more than 100 presentations on a variety of international business topics and has authored three books, most recently Marketing Research: An Aid to Decision Making, 3rd edition. As a Pacific Cultural Foundation Fellow, he has studied foreign culture influences on advertising in Taiwan.
In addition to teaching and research, Dr. Shao has worked as an Executive Director of Marketing Research and a Manager of Computer Operations, and has developed import businesses that manufactured furniture, motorcycles and crystals in China. He is a frequent traveler, having visited China more than 100 times and lectured in more than 30 countries.
Dr. Shao has consulted for major companies that include Coca-Cola, Nissan, HSBC, Wells Fargo, North Carolina State Ports Authority, Hendrick Motor Sports (NASCAR) and the Carolina Panthers football franchise. He is a Past-President of the North Carolina World Trade Association, has served on the Board of the North Carolina District Export Council and is a past member of the Charleston Metro Chamber.
Among his honors and achievements, Dr. Shao was named a Bank of America Award for Teaching Excellence Finalist at UNC Charlotte, where he also received the Excellence in Teaching and the Gray’s MBA Outstanding Teaching Awards from the Belk College of Business Administration.
Dr. Shao earned his Ph.D. in Marketing, with a minor in Statistics at the University of Alabama–Tuscaloosa; an M.B.A. with a concentration in Management at Old Dominion University, and a B.S. in General Business, also from Old Dominion University.
An athletic enthusiast, his hobbies include jogging, basketball, weight training and golf. Dr. Shao and his wife, Carol, are the parents of three children: Janine (24), Victoria (22) and Alan II (17).
The location for the session with the Board of Regents for each finalist has been moved to the Faculty Lounge in the Keen Johnson Building.