Whitworth Communications

For Immediate Release

February 14, 2007

Spokane Schools Superintendent Brian Benzel to Join Whitworth Leadership Team

Whitworth President Bill Robinson announced today that Spokane Public Schools Superintendent Brian L. Benzel will be the college's new vice president for finance and administration. Benzel rose quickly to the top of an applicant pool that included senior executives at public and private universities, Fortune 100 corporations, and government and non-profit organizations, according to Robinson.

"Brian Benzel brings a remarkable record of inspired leadership, sound financial management and unwavering commitment to students," Robinson says. "Beyond that, he embraces and exemplifies the Whitworth mission. Anyone who knows Brian and knows Whitworth will recognize this is a great fit."

Succeeding Tom Johnson's distinguished 17-year tenure at Whitworth, Benzel is expected to begin his duties at the college on or about Aug. 1. He will bring 20 years of CEO-level experience in complex public and private organizations to his new role at Whitworth. Benzel will provide financial and operational leadership to the college as it plans construction of major facilities in arts and sciences, strong growth in the endowment, and continued improvements in financial modeling for strategic decision-making.

Benzel says he and his wife, Cynthia, have long-standing connections to Whitworth, and he and Robinson have enjoyed meeting over coffee to discuss the challenges and opportunities they face in education. He says the Whitworth position presents an opportunity to pursue a career path "positively diverted into public-school leadership 33 years ago" and a set of strategic priorities strongly aligned with his life's mission.

"Not only are Bill and I friends, but we hold similar views on leadership and look forward to working together on Whitworth's vital mission," Benzel says. "I've devoted almost every waking hour to accomplishing ambitious student achievement, capital projects and financial goals for Spokane Public Schools. This move to Whitworth is an extension of that work in a new role and with new relationships. I am humbled and honored to work with the Whitworth community to help shape the hearts and minds of young people to follow Christ's lead in serving the world."

As superintendent of Spokane Public Schools, Benzel has led the second largest school district in the state, with 5,000 employees serving 30,000 students in 51 schools. His tenure has been marked by improved student academic achievement, curriculum enhancements, construction and renovation of facilities, and strong community engagement.

"Whitworth's gain is our loss; we will miss Brian," says Christie Querna, president of the Spokane Public Schools Board of Directors. "His enthusiasm, his warmth, his professionalism, and particularly his financial expertise have been tremendously valuable to the school district and will be assets for Whitworth. The fact that he will remain in the Spokane community and will bring his experience in K-12 to the larger conversations around education is a good thing."

Prior to becoming superintendent at Spokane Public Schools, in 2001, Benzel held a number of senior financial and policy leadership roles, including chief operating officer of Seattle Public Schools (1998-2001), president of the Northwest region for Voyager Expanded Learning (1997-98), superintendent of Edmonds School District (1988-97), superintendent of Mead School District (1984-88), and business manager for Mead School District (1978-84). In 1993, he was named Washington Superintendent of the Year and was a finalist for National Superintendent of the Year.

Benzel serves on the boards of the Washington State University Foundation, College Spark Washington, and Greater Spokane Incorporated (formerly the Spokane Regional Chamber of Commerce), and on the Superintendent's Advisory Committee for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. His community leadership and service were recognized in 2006 with an Outstanding Leadership Award from the Education Research and Development Institute and the CEO Communicator of the Year Award from the Spokane Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

Benzel holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Gonzaga University, a master of public administration degree from the University of Washington, and a bachelor of arts in business from Washington State University. He has been an adjunct faculty member for Gonzaga, Harvard University, Seattle Pacific University and Whitworth, where he taught school finance in the 1980s.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private, liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The college, which enrolls more than 2,500 students, offers 53 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.


William Robinson, president, Whitworth College, (509) 777-3200.

Greg Orwig, director of communications, Whitworth College, (509) 777-4580 or gorwig@whitworth.edu.

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