10 months ago
Nyemike Okonkwo
Mercury Staff

UTD celebrated the inauguration of its fifth president, Richard Benson, on Oct. 27.

Benson is the successor to David Daniel, who served as university president from 2005 to 2015.

The UTD Brass Ensemble performed the processional and communications senior Matara Hitchcock sung the national anthem. Attendees included a number of UT System brass, including chancellor William McRaven and regents Ernest Aliseda, Brenda Pejovich and Sara Martinez Tucker. Mary McDermott Cook, the president of the Eugene McDermott Foundation and notable alumnus Charles Davidson also helped welcome Benson.

The inauguration included symbolic items, such as the Presidential Chain of Office, which is engraved with the names of the current president and predecessors, and the University Mace, which is a ceremonial staff of authority carried by university leaders at the head of academic processions.

McRaven acknowledged the rigor and difficulty in finding a replacement for Daniel. He also expressed his gratitude.

“We needed someone who could not only keep UTD on its steep upward trajectory, but to take it to an entirely new level,” McRaven said. “I’m proud to say that in finding Dick Benson, our search committee did the right job and then some. This is great news for UTD, for the UT system, for the city of Dallas and the entire metroplex.”

Benson’s address included an outline of his path to becoming UTD’s latest president and also included his goal of reaching Tier One status.

“We will not let up in our efforts to grow as scholars and educators,” Benson said. “We will benchmark against the best Carnegie R1 public universities and we will act with the confidence that comes from a proven record of rapid advancement.”

Benson also acknowledged the university’s currently misplaced reputation as a STEM-only powerhouse commuter school that “churns out MBAs.” Benson expressed his desire to continue to cultivate an academic community that is desirable on all accounts.

“Our students are not one dimensional,” he said. “We will create new venues for the broadly talented men and women who will choose UTD for an opportunity to gain an in-demand degree, all the while having the opportunity to give expression to their creativity.”

Director of University Events Judy Barnes said Reunion Tower in downtown Dallas was lit in honor of UTD’s latest milestone.

“Since we are the Comets and Reunion Tower is an iconic Dallas landmark, we said we would love to see the Comets and UTD colors lit up in the sky honoring Dr. Benson for his inauguration,” she said.

Benson was able to see the lightshow through live a stream, and later in the evening, had the opportunity to share the view with his loved ones.

“I made arrangements to take him and his family downtown to see it,” Barnes said. “It was a real special thing and we were able to pull it off and keep it a surprise and we are very proud that Dallas would recognize him in that way.”