A new era begins at Riverside Military Academy this June once Col. James Benson assumes the role of academy president.
Current Riverside President Col. Guy Gardner announced his retirement in November. Gardner has served as Riverside’s president since 2006, and plans to move to Pennsylvania to be closer to family.
Gardner calls Benson "a great gentleman," and said he will work closely with the retired Marine to ensure a smooth transition.
Benson has served as the president of Marion Military Institute in Marion, Ala., since 2004.
"My wife, Mary, and I are delighted to be here," Benson said. "We’re coming from a great school in Marion, Ala., but we’re just delighted to meet the people in Gainesville and be a part of this community."
Benson holds a Master of Science from the University of Tennessee, a Master of Public Administration from Penn State University and recently completed a doctorate in higher education administration at The George Washington University.
After being decorated as a combat veteran of the Vietnam War, he held several positions in the U.S. Marine Corps as a commanding officer. Benson served as the commanding officer for the Special Operations Counter-terrorism Joint Task Force and the 6th Marine Regiment. He also was chief of staff of the 2nd Marine Division.
Upon retiring from the Marine Corps in 1995, Benson held positions Bridgewater College in Virginia. He served as the executive assistant to the president and director of planning and as vice president for administration. Benson, a father of two, said he and his wife are anxious to move to Gainesville.
As the seventh president of Riverside, Benson said he plans to pick up where Gardner left off.
"We’re going to increase enrollment, we’re going to invigorate our fundraising and we’re going to work on student learning," he said. "We’re going to continue what Riverside has always done well, and that is develop young leaders for the future and for young people to occupy positions of authority in the military, in the government and in our schools."