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Riverside president Benson to retire at end of school year
Retired Marine and decorated Vietnam veteran led school through recession while growing enrollment
Dr. James H. Benson, a retired Marine colonel and decorated Vietnam veteran, is stepping down as president of Riverside Military Academy in June after seven years.

Riverside Military Academy announced Saturday that school president Dr. James H. Benson will leave at the end of the school year in June.

Benson, a retired U.S. Marine colonel, is in his seventh year as president of the Gainesville school.

“After seven years and accomplishment of the goals established by the Board, it is time for Mary and me to move into the next phase of our lives,” Benson said in an email press release. “We are grateful for the opportunity and appreciate the support we have received from the RMA Board of Trustees, the alumni, parents, and Gainesville community during our time at this exceptional Academy.”

A search committee has been formed and will begin seeking his successor.

Benson joined Riverside in 2009. He faced the challenges of managing the school’s budget, grow shrinking enrollment, begin a fundraising program and improve the 108-year-old academy’s military model of education.

Riverside’s enrollment has increased each of the 14 semesters Benson has been president. The spring semester includes 540 cadets from 27 countries and 22 states. RMA’s operating revenue grew from just over $9 million in 2009 to over $19 million currently, according to the news release, with $7 million in funds raised since 2009.

“Dr. Benson has not only accomplished, but has exceeded all goals and expectations given to him over the last seven years,” said Kenneth McKelvey, chairman of the Riverside Military Academy Board of Trustees. “He is the personification of a leader. ... Everyone associated with the Academy marvels at the progress accomplished under his strong leadership.”

The Bensons also chose to reside on campus, the first in 10 years for a Riverside president.