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  • Writer's pictureJoe Lyons

Ashland University Mourns Passing of Former President G. William Benz

G. William Benz, Ph.D., who served as president of Ashland University from 1993-2006, passed away in Albuquerque, N.M., on May 8. He was 88.


Benz’s impressive career in academia was headlined by leading AU during a time of significant growth. Among the highlights of his 13-year administration were:


    The “Building on Strength” comprehensive fundraising campaign, which raised $59.4 million over a five-year period (the largest in AU’s history at the time)


    Construction of 12 new buildings, including the Hawkins-Conard Student Center, the Dauch College of Business and Economics and the Rybolt Health Sciences and Recreation Center


    Establishment of Doctor of Education and Master of American History and Government degrees


    Increase in academic standards for undergraduate students (ACT scores, high school GPA, class rank, etc.)


    Strengthening of faculty, in terms of both numbers and quality scholarship


Benz called his time as Ashland’s president as “probably the source of my greatest enjoyment” during a 2006 interview with Accent magazine. “It has given me the chance to work with some extraordinary people at an institution that I believe in very strongly and … feel privileged to have had the opportunity to share in its success,” he added.


Prior to coming to Ashland, Benz was at Ohio Wesleyan University from 1986-93, serving as special assistant to the president, provost and chief academic officer. He was also a dean at Defiance College and a professor at Trinity College, Lake Forest College and Whitworth College.


Benz, who grew up in Fort Scott, Kan., and Ontario, Calif., served in the U.S. Navy for four years and was involved in highly-sensitive intelligence work as a Russian language specialist.  He spent months at sea on a submarine, eavesdropping on Soviet military radio transmissions.


That experience inspired an interest in Soviet politics and Russian history, and upon leaving the military, Benz attended the University of California at Riverside. He later earned a Ph.D. in Soviet studies from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.


Benz’s wife of seven decades, Gerry Benz, survives.


According to his son, Stephen Benz, “Bill and Gerry loved Ashland very much and they continued to follow AU news while in retirement. My father took particular delight in the successes of the women’s basketball team. The memorial service will prominently feature purple and gold.”


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