Southern Utah University would like to invite the campus and local communities to join in welcoming President Emeritus Steven D. Bennion and his wife, Marj, back to SUU and southern Utah, where Dr. Bennion has begun his service as executive director of the Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service at SUU.
A reception will be held in the Bennion’s honor on Tuesday, September 7, from 3-4 p.m. in the Starlight Room of the University’s Sharwan Smith Student Center. In addition to congratulating Bennion on his new post, guests will also have an opportunity to mingle with the student volunteers and staff of the Leavitt Center. Light refreshments will be served.
Following Dr. Bennion’s retirement as the University’s 14th president in 2006 and three years of service as a mission president for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in New York, he now oversees the center and ensures that it fulfills its original two-fold mission of 1) providing students leadership opportunities through political and public engagement, and 2) providing a forum in Southern Utah of discussion and debate on the political issues and public policies that affect our state.
Further, he said will also reignite the fire of the Leavitt Center Advisory Board, designed to provide direction and to help ensure the sustainability of the center. He also hopes to continue to build ties with other organizations on campus such as the political science and criminal justice department and many student organizations, he said.
The Center is named for the former governor of Utah, cabinet member in two capacities for President George W. Bush, one-time chair of the University’s Board of Trustees and a 1978 SUU graduate.
Bennion points to the establishment of the Center as among the hallmarks of his nine-year tenure at SUU.
“One of the signal achievements during my service here was the creation of a Center for Politics and Public Service in 1998 with the superb history and foundation laid by professors Craig Jones and Rod Decker,” he said. “Eight years later we happily named the center in honor of one of SUU’s most distinguished alumni, Michael O. Leavitt. Gov. Leavitt donated his official papers and documents to SUU, which enhances the opportunity for students and faculty to benefit from his extensive leadership and service over a period of nearly two decades.”
Leavitt hails Bennion’s return to service at the University.
“A combination of seasoned scholarship and a lifetime of leadership puts Dr. Bennion in a position to provide students at the Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service with a truly unique academic experience,” said Leavitt. “Not only is he a gifted teacher, but also a dedicated mentor.”
Bennion was a three-time university/college president. Prior to coming to SUU, Dr. Bennion served at Snow College from 1982 to 1989 and at Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho) from 1989 to 1997. In a story well known to many, Bennion’s tenure was a kind of familial homecoming since his grandfather, Milton Bennion, served as the founding principal/president of SUU.
Steven Bennion’s accomplishments at SUU are many, but he lists the establishment of the Leavitt Center and its attendant success as one of his most treasured achievements.
“I am delighted to now have the opportunity to serve at the Center and to help see it enable students, government leaders, faculty and others come to discuss issues, interact with the broader campus community and to engage our students in service and leadership opportunities,” he said. “It is a special opportunity to serve with outstanding students, faculty catalysts, and a splendid associate director and recent student body president, Jon McNaughtan, in a cause which helps fulfill the core values of the University of academic excellence, involvement and personal growth, and community and social responsibility. I am excited and honored to be engaged in such a worthy cause.”
McNaughtan served as student body president in 2008-09 and recently completed a master’s degree in educational policy and leadership at Stanford University.
“The continued involvement of many terrific students in the Center’s activities is key to our success,” said Bennion.
He and his wife of 46 years, Marj, now live in Washington, Utah.