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CU alum Bruce Benson became leader of four-campus University of Colorado

From banking to real estate, cable television, restaurants and education, Benson says the same skills apply across sectors for a CEO


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BRUCE D. BENSON, 78 

President, University of Colorado

In 2008, lifelong entrepreneur and CU alum Bruce Benson became the leader of the four-campus University of Colorado. A geology major who founded Benson Mineral Group in 1965, he’s also been involved in banking, real estate, cable television and restaurants. Leading the $3.8 billion CU system isn’t much different than running a business, Benson says. “You need a CEO, and I’m the CEO, and you need a board and we have the regents,” he says. “I work for the regents. They can walk in right now and say, ‘Get out.’”

That’s unlikely. During Benson’s tenure, CU’s research funding has reached record levels, including $924 million in 2015-16. The university has seen its six best fundraising years — including a record $384.5 million in 2015-16 — and Benson also helped secure legislation that would enable the university to run more efficiently, saving millions in procurement, insurance and construction.

Benson, an active player in Republican politics who was the GOP candidate for governor in 1994, is the longest-serving CU president in more than 50 years. He says one key to success: getting departments to communicate with each other. “When I came here it was a bunch of silos,” he says. “You build collaborations, you treat people with respect.” 

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Nora Caley

Nora Caley is a freelance writer specializing in business and food topics.

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