Bonner taps Joe Benson as interim provost

Newly-appointed University of Alabama President Judy Bonner selected long-serving faculty and administration member Joe Benson as interim provost on Monday, Nov. 12.

Benson has served as the vice president for research and vice provost at the University since 2009, after a two-year stint as an interim for the position. Benson joined the University faculty as an assistant professor of geology in 1978 and worked his way up to chair of the department of geological sciences in 1990. He also served as president of the Faculty Senate from 1993-1995 and associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences from 1998-2001.

“I asked the UA Council of Deans and the UA Faculty Senate Steering Committee for nominations for consideration for the position of interim provost. After carefully considering each nomination, I have asked Dr. Joe Benson to serve in that role,” Bonner said in a press release announcing the selection. “Dr. Benson is a respected member of the faculty and an academic leader. He plans to retire in the summer after 35 years of service at The University of Alabama.”

Benson was surprised by the appointment, but honored.

“I was contacted by Dr. Bonner last week, I’d say. She asked if I would be interested in the position, but she did not immediately offer the position,” Benson said. “I spent a few days considering it, but I eventually decided it was something I could do — and do it well. Eventually, I accepted it. We talked about generalities of the duties, but I’m already aware of the duties of the provost, so we didn’t talk in detail of the specifics. I was not expecting it.”

The appointment came less than two weeks after Bonner was hastily chosen as president of the University after the resignation of former President Guy Bailey. Bailey, citing his wife’s health concerns, announced his resignation on the afternoon of Wednesday, Oct. 31, and the Board of Trustees then chose Bonner for the position on the early afternoon of Thursday, Nov. 1.

Cathy Andreen, director of media relations at the University, pointed toward a difference in office roles as to the time discrepancy between the appointment of UA president and the interim provost.

“The appointments were two separate things,” Andreen said. “The search for president was handled through the [University of Alabama] System Office. Dr. Bonner is in charge of the appointment of interim provost.”

In the press release, Bonner said she plans to announce the search committees for provost and vice president for the Office of Research in the coming weeks. Andreen said the search would more than likely be internal as well as external.

Although Benson is now serving as interim provost, he will be ineligible for the formal position. At the Board of Trustees meeting on Nov. 1, Bonner said interims are not allowed to be candidates for the position, according to a new policy of the UA system that was not in place as Bonner served as interim president of the University before Bailey’s appointment. Mark Nelson, vice president for student affairs and the University’s other vice provost, would then still be eligible for the position.

Benson said he is unaware if Nelson would be interested in the position or if he would apply. However, Benson is prepared to leave his successor with a stable office and university.

“I think the University has a great opportunity to build on the momentum built up over the last eight to 10 years,” Benson said. “Dr. Bonner is working very hard to build upon this, and I would hope to be able to build up and hand off the University in as good or better shape than it is now.”

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