DENVER — What makes a man like Bruce Benson come to work each day as President of the University of Colorado system? It's not the work that's been done. It's the work still left unfinished.
"Change is important and fixing things is important," Benson said. "There's a lot of things that need to be fixed in higher education."
The CU graduate first worked in the oil fields as a geologist before starting his own oil and gas company.
"I used to be called a young man in a hurry and the only difference is, I'm not young anymore."
Benson's success in business led to a success as a prominent conservative Republican in Colorado. He used to run the state's Republican party while also running for Governor on the GOP ticket in 1994. Now, he's in charge of four campuses including Boulder and CU Denver where he touts a change he called Diversity of Thought, a concerted effort to bring more conservative speakers and instructors to the campuses.
"Seventy five percent of the Democrats say we're doing a good job in higher education. Thirty five percent of the Republicans say that," Benson said. "It's because of this damn reputation we get for being a bunch of liberals."
He wants a balance.
"You've got to have all points of views out there and you got to teach kids how to think not what to think," Benson said.
Benson has been President of the University of Colorado System since 2008. At 10 years and counting, he is the longest serving president in 65 years. This is after controversy, protests, and a social media campaign against him when he was named as president.
"So, we just keep moving upward. People are feeling better about the university every day, so I'm really proud of that," Benson said.
The businessman believes he has the university system running like a business, more efficient and financially sound than when he took it over. He is pleased the CU's bond rating has dropped low enough to save the university millions of dollars when it borrows money for construction.
"Everybody stepped up and they started cutting things and cleaning things out," Benson said.
The University of Colorado shows enrollment data that reveals an increase of minority students by 50 percent system-wide since Benson took office.
"We have to take care of every citizen in this country and if we don't, we're going to be in deep trouble," Benson said.
Though, he is approaching 80-years-old, he looks to the future which includes a continually growing medical campus in Aurora with a renewed focus on innovation.
"We're building a community and that's what I talk about a lot is building communities around our campuses," Benson said.
What makes a man like Bruce Benson finally retire? He hasn't really figured that out yet.
"When things like like it's right, that's when we'll say enough is enough and let's move on."