Benson Delivers Seventh Convocation

Published on August 16, 2019

“We are a knowledgeable family,” was the opening theme of the 2019-2020 Eastern Kentucky University employee convocation August 13.

EKU President Dr. Michael Benson shared a clip from the 1968 classic “The Lion in Winter,” a fictional account of the battle to succeed King Henry II’s throne. This is a link to the convocation video.

The movie clip — of the famous “I Know” scene between John Castle’s Geoffrey and Katharine Hepburn’s Eleanor of Aquitaine — set up some historic announcements, some positive news and the kickoff to the 2019-2020 academic year.

The event, which brought hundreds of employees to the EKU Center for the Arts auditorium, was filled with laughter and applause, a greeting and message from EKU Board of Regents Chair Lewis Diaz and the announcement of several new leadership changes on campus.

Laughter came in support of a hashtag that President Benson, beginning his seventh year and no stranger to social media, hoped would trend — #hardestworkingprovostinAmerica. That provost, Dr. Jerry J. Pogatshnik, put in serious work during the University’s Day of Service on August 2. A photo of the mulch- and dirt-covered provost was shown to the crowd. (Sadly, the hashtag didn’t take off.)

Applause came at several points during the presentation, including following the announcement of an extended year-end break for employees. Benson announced that winter break will begin with a half day on December 18. Employees will return to work January 6.

In more serious news, Benson announced that the 2018-2019 academic year produced the largest graduating class in EKU history, with more than 4,000 degrees conferred. However, he noted that also leaves a lot of seats unfilled, making enrollment a focus for the entire campus. A social media ambassador initiative, which enables every Colonel to be a recruiter of students, was also announced and Benson introduced the appointment of a President’s Inclusive Excellence Advisory Council.

Chair Diaz announced several new regents , including the appointment of Lynn Taylor Tye to the board, the election of Dr. Jason Marion as the faculty representative, and Madison Lipscomb as the student representative. The Board of Regents elected Diaz as chair in January. He is the first Latino and the youngest board chair to serve at the University.

The convocation recapped a year of accomplishments at EKU:

  • Senior political science major Grant Minix was named to the Council on Postsecondary Education Board, giving EKU the last two student representatives on that board.
  • Ciara Perez was named a Fulbright Scholar, the first in three years. The 2018 graduate will teach in Guatemala. She earned a degree in Globalization and International Affairs.
  • Rising junior Nick Koenig was awarded the Barry Goldwater Scholarship. The Honors student from Louisville is only the fourth Colonel to receive the honor.
  • Dr. Dana Howell and Dr. Cynthia Williams Resor were named EKU Foundation Professors.
  • Dr. Erin Presley won the John. D. Rowlett Award.
  • The Marching Colonels were honored to play at “Thurby,” the Thursday event before the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
  • EKU’s first dedicated day of giving surpassed all goals, raising more than $125,000 in one day from 750 donors.
  • The Special Olympics celebrated a quarter century of athletic competition on the Campus Beautiful.
  • The new Powell Building student center and the new campus recreation center will come online this winter.
  • The Faculty and Staff Innovation Fund will be funded again at $250,000.
  • An employee clinic, the first of its kind, will open on Boggs Lane this fall.

Move-In Day and the Big E Welcome weekend for EKU’s freshmen begins Friday, August 16, with the first day of classes on Monday, August 19.