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Benson, Pennock honored for distinguished service

Oct. 19, 2007

KALAMAZOO--Dr. John W. Benson, a longtime Spanish language professor, and Rob Pennock, associate director of Miller Auditorium, will be honored Oct. 25 as this year's recipients of Western Michigan University's Distinguished Service Awards.

The pair will be among those honored at the University's annual Academic Convocation, which will be held at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25, in the Dalton Center Recital Hall. The event will feature WMU President John M. Dunn's first State of the University address as well as the presentation of a several campuswide awards. Also honored that day will be WMU's Distinguished Faculty Scholar, Emerging Scholar and Distinguished Teaching award recipients.

As winners of the Distinguished Service Award, Benson and Pennock join a list of 41 faculty and staff members who have received the accolade since it was established in 1980. Each of the recipients will receive a plaque and a $2,000 honorarium. The two were chosen from among award candidates campuswide who were nominated for service through innovative and effective programs or in areas that extend the impact and presence of the University into the larger community.

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2007 Distinguished Service Award recipients

John W. Benson, a member of the faculty since 1974, served as chair first of the Department of Foreign Languages and then the Department of Spanish for a total of 13 years. He for was cited for his service to students, fairness, ability to mentor new faculty members, and the creation of study abroad programs that provide "life-changing" experiences for U.S. students and opportunities for students in other nations.

Many current faculty members writing in support of his nomination said that they had joined the WMU faculty because of Benson. One faculty member, who was hired and advanced to full professor during Benson's 13 years as department chair, pointed to his guidance as a significant factor in the success of young colleagues.

"John taught us to become dedicated educators, scholars and leaders through his encouragement, patience, trust and foremost, his passion and enthusiasm for our profession," one such colleague wrote. "He set expectations high and inspired us to meet them by his own example."

Another colleague wrote of Benson's legendary advocacy for all graduate students and his special generosity toward international students.

"I don't know anyone at WMU who has been a tougher advocate for graduate students' needs, or who has fought harder to make the lives of our graduate students better," that colleague wrote. "This was especially true in the case of our international students; very often the new international students stayed in his home for days, even weeks, until they were able to find an apartment."

A former department member wrote, "Dr. Benson's crowning service achievement undoubtedly has been the channeling of his one passion for world travel into creating first-rate study abroad experiences for WMU students."


Rob Pennock has been associate director of Miller Auditorium since 2004. After a career as a financial officer with a number of private sector firms, he first joined the Miller staff in 1997 as business manager, then left to serve in the same role in WMU's College of Aviation before rejoining the Miller staff in his current role.

Pennock was lauded by those nominating him for his ability to "do it all," from assisting other units in his division with his business acumen to serving as an advisor to student groups and a mentor to individual students.

"He faces every challenge with enthusiasm and believes there is nothing that can't be solved with a little ingenuity, team work and a dose of humor," wrote one colleague who supported his nomination. "His dedication to the University and the offices he works for is unmatched."

Another colleague wrote of Pennock's role in helping Miller Auditorium meet success as it takes on more and more complex programming and scheduling challenges.

"Rob was the driving force in helping to take Miller Auditorium to the next level of excellence in programming when Miller presented 'Phantom of the Opera,'" the colleague noted. "When WMU's commencement and the Gilmore Keyboard Festival had to be moved, he coordinated the move of two very complicated events with ease. Logistically, it was a huge undertaking requiring attention to detail and careful planning, working with many groups on and off campus. His attitude is "can do," no matter what the task. He is a people person and has a way of motivating others to get any job done efficiently. He is professional, eternally optimistic and always finds the humor in any situation."


Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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