Southern Utah University breaks fundraising records with BYU grad’s help

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BY HUNTER SCHWARZ

For such a small school, Southern Utah University sure has some big goals.
Located in Cedar City, SUU may be home to only 8,000 students, but it is currently working toward a goal to raise more than $100 million for buildings, scholarships and other improvements to the university.

Much of the responsibility to raise money falls on the president.

“It’s a very noble thing to go get resources for causes you believe in,” said SUU President Michael Benson, a graduate of BYU in political science. “I believe in education.”

Two weeks after being named SUU president in 2006, Benson announced a $3 million pledge for the College of Science. By the end of his first year, Benson helped the university raise more than $15 million.

“Fundraising is just sales,” Benson said. “If you really believe in a product, you can sell it. Education is something I believe is the most important thing people can get in this life.”

In addition to attracting private donors, Benson has been successful working with the state legislature to ensure SUU gets its share of state funds. In 2009, he helped the university secure more than $30 to more classrooms, a laboratory complex, and new student housing.

And this is only the beginning, Benson said.

Last September, he kicked off “The Future is Rising: The Campaign for Southern Utah University.” The campaign is the university most ambitious project yet, with a goal of raising more than $100 million.

The money is earmarked for a number of different projects including construction, expansion of several buildings, student scholarships and providing the best educational tools for a growing school.

“‘The Future is Rising’ fundraising campaign is progressing well, especially given the uncertain economic times we’re going through,” said Stuart Jones, vice president for advancement and regional services. “We are nearly two thirds of the way through our $100 million goal … We expect to reach our goal within the next 18 months to two years.”

Jones said leadership and “a loyal and supportive base of alumni and friends” make such fundraising efforts possible.

“Gratefully, SUU has both.”

Jones cited the tireless efforts of President Benson in enlisting support and providing leadership to the university, and said SUU has “many, many devoted and generous alumni and friends.”

“Since the epic founding of the campus, the community, region and its alumni and friends have provided that added margin of difference that distinguishes SUU,” he said.

Student body president T.J. Nelson said the administration does a good job informing the students of the campaign and how it is benefiting their education.

“Just recently, during our homecoming week, they opened up our new science building,” Nelson said.

Nelson said President Benson’s leadership has been crucial to the university’s fundraising campaign.

“President Benson is my hero,” he said. “He is so good at what he does.”

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