Belated hooding

May 17th, 2019 Posted in From Our Alumni
Alumnus walks for graduation 44 years later

“If you could do something you haven’t done, but you could do it now before you die, what would you do?” That familiar bucket list question was posed to Dr. Paul Benson (MEd ’65, PhD  ’75) while having a beer with a friend.

“One of the things I regret,” he says, “is not going through the graduation ceremony when I was young and thought the job was more important than the hooding ceremony. I’d really like to do that.”

His friend said: “Call the University, I’m sure they’ll let you.”

Benson’s first call was to the Judith Herb College of Education to make sure the dean approved of his walking in an upcoming commencement ceremony. “I passed that hurdle,” he says. Once it was all approved through the appropriate administrative channels, Benson learned he could walk and be belatedly hooded for his PhD in the May 4, 2019 commencement ceremony.

“This has been a good catch-up experience. It completes the process,” says Benson. “People were very nice to me and accommodated me in a great way,” he says of his reception at UToledo. “Considering the number of people and the time, it was very well organized and went well.”

Paul Benson returns to his alma mater 44 years later to walk in graduation ceremony and be hooded for his PhD.

That first professional job that enticed Benson to get to work right away was at Lake Superior College in Sault Ste Marie, Mich. “I had been broke all my life, so I decided that having a few days in a job earning money was more important than the hooding ceremony,” says Benson, who earned his advanced degrees in Higher Education at UToledo.

Benson then became a director of student activities at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. His 42-year career in higher education also took him to Georgia, his current home where he spends his retirement.

In Georgia, Benson became a vice president at Georgia College at the age of 39, an accomplishment he is proud to have achieved. He was a vice president at Kennesaw State University as well, and later a dean at Chattahoochee Technical College. “I was the youngest vice president in the university system in Georgia at one time,” says Benson, adding that he felt he had been a real contributor at Georgia. “I wanted to be the best vice president for student affairs that I could. And that’s what drove me.”

While attending UToledo, the late Dr. John H. Russel taught in the Administrative Internship PhD program, in which Benson was enrolled. “They worked our tails off,” says Benson. “This was a strong UToledo academic program compared to other programs I’ve seen in higher education. He describes it as an administrative assistantship. “It was 20 hours spent working as an administrative intern, and then we were full-time students. It was a tough, tough program.”

Benson wrote his dissertation on the topic, “Students’ Perceptions of Student Personnel Functions in Higher Education.” Using a random, stratified sample of freshman students who had been at UToledo for a couple of quarters and were just learning about the campus, Benson conducted his research. “I wanted to find out how students perceived out-of-class activities and services, if they thought they were important. Yes, they thought they were important, but they didn’t know what they were or how to find them,” he says.  

Benson’s own perception of college and university experiences, after 40 years of changes, is that now there are comprehensive programs and activities. “Students have a larger choice and a better choice of what they want to do, and they get support for their academic quest to get their degree,” says Benson. “Nowadays, you have many more learning experiences that are intercultural than we did back then,” he adds. “But we were working on it.”

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