Friday, November 20, 2020 - by Don Foley, Cleveland State Community College
For more than 30 years, Will Benson was one of the centerpieces of Cleveland State Community College. If you attended Cleveland State anytime since 1989, chances are high you were enrolled in one of his introductory music courses or simply just saw his bright smile on campus which lit up the Cougar Nation every single day.
And now, after spending parts of five different decades truly coloring the lives of those at Cleveland State with the world of music, the Cleveland State Community College Foundation Trustees have decided to honor Mr. Benson by naming the college’s Relief Fund, the Will Benson Relief Fund.
Mr. Benson, 55, passed away March 19. The same week Cleveland State began its move to remote instruction as COVID-19 began to spread in the Tennessee Valley. The impact of the pandemic, as well as deadly tornadoes that ripped across Southeast Tennessee in April would lead to the college’s relief fund jumping into service.
Since this past March, the Will Benson Relief Fund has helped 23 students and one faculty member with more than $10,000 in assistance with COVID-19 difficulties and storm damage. Easter 2020 saw four different tornadoes touch down just shy of midnight on April 12 in Bradley County.
The original relief fund was founded after tornadoes ravaged Southeast Tennessee in the spring of 2012. Now, the newly-named Will Benson Relief Fund will memorialize his long-time dedication and commitment to the success of Cleveland State.
“Will was a true pleasure each and every day,” said Karen Dale, Cleveland State Community College Associate Professor of Music. “I worked with Will for 12 years. He loved the music of Bach and Wagner. He always had a dream of having a great Masterworks Choir at Cleveland State.”
Mr. Benson was most known by many as the voice of every Cleveland State graduation ceremony for the past 20 years; announcing the name of every new graduate through the years. “He had a lasting impact on his students. He was special and he made us all better,” added Ms. Dale.
Mr. Benson made his mark in Tennessee music history at a young age when he was the first African-American Drum Major of the Science Hill High School Marching Band. He would then move on to East Tennessee State University where he would again be named Drum Major of the Buccaneer Band.
Although, Mr. Benson graduated from ETSU, he was a big University of Tennessee fan and could be seen on the Cleveland State campus every Friday wearing his Tennessee Orange. Friends say among the things he was passionate about were classical music, bowling, worship, and talking about the latest television commercials that gave him some comic relief.
Helping his fellow Cleveland State Cougars, whether it was a student, faculty, or staff member, was always something he strived for. Now, his giving spirit lives on in the Will Benson Relief Fund. You can give to the fund at MyCS.CC/GiveToday. Checks can be mailed to the CSCC Foundation at 3535 Adkisson Drive, P.O. Box 3570, Cleveland, TN 37320-3570. For more information, contact the CSCC Foundation at 614-8700 or email@example.com.
This December, the Will Benson Relief Fund will be a part of CSCC’s 12 Days of Giving Campaign, a newly establish community campaign designed to raise critical funds to support Cleveland State students and academic programs.