Love, devotion and a lunchtime legacy
"What really set George apart from his peers was a genuine interest in his students and colleagues."
Benston graduated from Queens College in 1952 and earned his MBA in accounting and taxation from New York University in 1953. In 1963, he earned a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago. In addition to his work at Goizueta, Benston served as professor of economics in Emory College. The John H. Harland Professor of Finance died in February 2008.
“What really set George apart from his peers was a genuine interest in his students and colleagues,” said friend and Associate Professor of Finance Jim Rosenfeld. “He always had time for you regardless of the nature of your problems and, just as important would steer you in the right direction.”
Although Emory’s business school had a strong teaching reputation, when Benston arrived it was considered by many a small institution with limited academic research. Benston immediately started doing his part to change the reputation, including emphasizing the importance of engaging in active scholarship. He was influential in many major hiring decisions over the next 20 years, including faculty and deans. Most importantly, however, was Benston’s determination in making every individual at Goizueta feel heard.
“I was always impressed that George attended and actively participated in every faculty meeting during my time as dean,” said Larry Benveniste, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Finance and former dean. “When topics such as curriculum questions were to be discussed, George always did his homework and provided thoughtful and influential comments.”
Benston’s commitment to open conversation often manifested itself over meals. This led to his funding of faculty lunches every Wednesday. The lunches encouraged simple and informal conversations as a way for faculty to become acquainted with one another, regardless of focus area. A plaque still proudly hangs inside the Dolive Room with the words, “…home of the Benston lunches.”
Surely those lunchtime conversations ranged from family to research methodology. However, Benston always maintained the highest standards and ethics.
"George’s passing has left a void within the business school that will probably never be filled.
Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Accounting Greg Waymire described Benston as “an urbane and witty guy who was full of life.”
“Even a decade after his death, I think of George and his infectious (and sometimes devilish) smile, and feel the loss caused by his passing,” Waymire said. “While he was alive, I often kidded him that after he died we would have to check his grave regularly to see if he had produced any new papers while away from the office.”
Benston’s work continues to live on through the George J. Benston Annual Public Policy Lecture and Debate, held on campus each spring to focus on important and controversial topics in the public policy domain.
The memorial event is funded by gifts from Benston’s faculty colleagues and friends. In 2014, the George J. Benston Award was established for a Goizueta Business School Ph.D. student showing “outstanding potential in academic research.”
“George’s passing has left a void within the business school that will probably never be filled,” Rosenfeld said. “I can truly say that it has been both a privilege and honor to call George my close friend.”