Francis B. Gummere Professor of English Kimberly Benston
Kimberly Benston Named Interim Provost of Haverford College
Kimberly Benston, the Francis B. Gummere Professor of English, has been named interim provost of Haverford College, effective July 1. Benston will replace John B. Hurford Professor of Economics Linda Bell when her five-year term as provost ends at the end of June.
“I hope to become a part of our strong tradition of provostial leadership by helping the College sustain momentum toward realizing so many important curricular, scholarly and communal aspirations,” says Benston. “A critical piece of that effort will be to help the faculty and our many campus partners make next year a vital and generative initiation to our new president's tenure.”
Benston’s one-year appointment will begin July 1. Interim President Joanne V. Creighton selected him for the position after conducting an internal review process that solicited nominations and advice from faculty. Benston “received the lion’s share of faculty endorsements, a clear mandate,” says Creighton. “I am particularly impressed with the capaciousness of his vision and aspirations for the College. I predict he will wisely and ably partner with the new president and help to build strong alliances with and among the faculty and other constituents of the institution.”
She says the one-year interim arrangement will help to facilitate the transition to a new administration while ensuring that the new president has maximum flexibility in filling and designing the provost’s position in the future.
A renowned scholar whose interests include modern drama, African-American literature and culture studies, the drama of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, performance studies, photographic history and theory, and critical animal studies, Benston has been part of the Haverford faculty since 1984. Prior to that, he taught at Yale University, where he also earned his B.A. (1974), M.A. (1977), M. Phl. (1978) and PhD. (1980). He has taught a long list of courses at Haverford including those on many different eras of dramatic literature (Jacobean, Shakespeare, classical, modern), poetry, animals and western institutions, and African American literature and performance. His books include Baraka: The Renegade and The Mask and Performing Blackness: Enacting African-American Modernism, which won the American Society for Theater Research Errol Hill Award. He is currently working on Norton’s forthcoming anthology of African-American poetry.
During his tenure at the College, Benston has helped form its curriculum and policies by serving on a number of committees, including the Academic Council, the Faculty Committee for Institutional Advancement, the Gallery Committee, the Arts Working Group and, most recently, as co-chair of the Tri-Co Environmental Studies Steering Committee, which helped usher in the new Environmental Studies minor last year. Benston was also part of the first steering committee for the John B. Hurford ’60 Center for Arts and Humanities (formerly the Humanities Center) and served two separate terms—2002 to 2004 and 2007 to 2009—as its director. He also served as chair of the English department and coordinator of the Africana Studies program and has earned several teaching awards, including the Lindback Foundation Teaching Award at Haverford.
In addition to his numerous advisory board memberships and consultancies—at places like the Toni Morrison Society, the MacArthur Foundation, PBS and the National Research Council—Benston has also served on the jury for the Pulitzer Prize for drama.
As the College’s chief academic officer, he will be charged with augmenting Haverford’s reputation both nationally and internationally. Though he will take the year off from his teaching duties (something he says he will truly miss), the arrival of a new president will make this a particularly exciting time to be the provost, he says.
“I'm not being glib in saying that to some extent the time chooses one, not vice versa,” he says. “But this is indeed an exciting moment in the College's evolution, one filled with challenges and opportunities that I'm convinced will fortify our identity as a vigorous, intentional community underwritten by profoundly important values. The beginning of a new presidency offers a special opportunity for the whole College to renew that fundamental sense of mission.”