Published: June 2, 2021

In a move designed to help the University of Colorado Boulder recruit and retain top graduate students in geological sciences, Marcy and Bruce Benson have dedicated a $6 million endowment to five full-ride graduate fellowships annually.

With the creation of the Marcy H. and Bruce D. Benson Graduate Fellowship Fund in Geological Sciences, the change redirects funds that were previously dedicated to an endowed chair of geological sciences. Bruce Benson, former president of the University of Colorado, and his wife, Marcy, are significant donors to CU Boulder, and much of their philanthropic giving has benefitted geology.

Bruce, left, and Marcy Benson (Photo by Casey A. Cass/University of Colorado)

Bruce, left, and Marcy Benson (Photo by Casey A. Cass/University of Colorado)

Bruce is an alumnus of the program, having earned his bachelor’s in geology at CU Boulder in 1964. He leveraged that degree as he founded the Benson Mineral Group, an oil and gas production company.

The Bensons’ funding decision provides “significant, forward-thinking funding to the department that will immediately elevate the program’s ability to recruit and retain the top geoscience talent,” the department says. 

Robert Anderson, department chair and distinguished professor of geological sciences, noted that the department “has long benefitted from the generous support of Bruce and Marcy Benson.”  

The Bensons helped fund the building that has housed the department for 22 years, and they also funded the Benson Endowed Chair in Petroleum Geology 20 years ago. 

“The department is thrilled that the Bensons have now transformed the Benson Endowed Chair into the Benson Graduate Fellowships,” Anderson said, adding that that the gift will support five graduate students each year in perpetuity. 

“Raising fellowship funds have been our longstanding priority to attract the best and the brightest graduate students to study at CU Boulder,” Anderson said. 

“This transformation of the Benson endowment to this purpose assures the Bensons’ legacy as supporters of excellence, and further deepens our gratitude for their forward-looking perspective.”

By offering generous graduate fellowships, the department can compete for top talent, engage in groundbreaking research, and deliver exceptional undergraduate education, the department says. 

Geology graduate students are also integral to undergraduate education, serving a critical role in mentoring, engaging undergraduate students in the field and research labs, and assisting in classrooms.

Student recipients will be called Marcy and Bruce Benson Distinguished Fellows. These highly competitive graduate fellowship awards will cover all expenses for students pursuing a PhD or master’s from the department.

“Bruce and Marcy care deeply about CU Boulder, with a particular passion for geological sciences,” said CU Boulder Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano. “We thank them for their continued support as we work together to provide adequate financial and other resources to our graduate students in this critical field.”  

CU Boulder ranks #1 in the world for Earth sciences, according to the 2020 Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities. It ranks #2 in the world for geosciences, according to U.S. News & World Report’s 2021 Best Global Universities Rankings.