Robert Benson

Robert Gardner Benson

Monday, December 30th, 1957 - Sunday, September 20th, 2020
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Robert (Rob) Gardner Benson

December 30, 1957 – September 20, 2020

Once upon a time, a middle school teacher/coach told Robert Benson that he would never amount to anything. Hmmm…

Impossible to summarize Rob’s life in a few paragraphs, but the following is a bullet list of some, but by no means all, of the highlights (or lowlights, as the case may be), in somewhat sequential order:

- born in New London, Connecticut to Robert A. and Margaret M. Benson
- grew up in Cohasset, Massachusetts, where he shot up taller than his mom by age 10
- held Alison Aronson’s hand under the dinner table at Winter Harbor, Maine (according to sis MJ but not fact-checked)
- taught sailing on Cape Cod Bay
- rowed at Tabor Academy and University of Washington
- flunked out of UDub, redeemed himself, earned a degree in geology
- worked as a geologist in Alaska, where he absorbed invaluable advice such as how to outrun a grizzly (shoot your field partner in the foot)
- married Rynn Nichols and fathered a set of towheaded boys
- next stop: Moscow, Idaho, and a masters degree (U of Idaho)
- worked at Battle Mountain Gold in (where else?) Battle Mountain, Nevada (designated the “Armpit of America” by Washington Post Sunday Magazine)
- moved to Alamosa, Colorado to work at Battle Mountain Gold’s San Luis mine
- fell in love with green chili the moment it first kissed his tongue
- broke up swordfight between aforementioned towheaded boys, who had weaponed his prize Wusthof chef’s knives
- laid off by Battle Mountain Gold
- licked wounds, picked himself up, shook himself off, and enrolled in Ph.D. program at Colorado School of Mines
- graduated Mines in 1997 and landed a teaching position at Adams State University, where he taught geosciences for over 20 years and made lifelong friends – and no doubt an enemy or two
- after the end of his marriage to Rynn, Lewis&Clarked online dating, where, after a few false starts, he met Sheri Keasler and soon became stepfather to Sarah and Jake, bestowing upon his own sons, Nick and Will, a wicked stepmom

Rob was kind and loving, loyal, strong, vulnerable, sensitive, nerdy, cool, caring, passionate, unpretentious. He took an interest in people from all backgrounds and walks of life. He invited students left behind on campus to Thanksgiving dinner. His favorite movie line was “Back off, man, I’m a scientist.” He loved to talk woodworking with son Will. Despite son Nick’s best efforts, Rob took his fashion cues from no one. On any given day you’d find him in tattered shirt and faded Carhartts. And socks with sandals – sacrilege in Nick’s book.

Rob had a smile as wide as the Grand Canyon. He played a mean game of cribbage. He loved to flyfish and build scale models and cook. He mispronounced (Yankee-style) the words “aunt,” “either” and “orange,” among others. He once had a full head of flowing blond locks (fact check: true).

Rob made an impact on the lives of many, particularly his students, as encapsulated by the remarks of Katie Schultz, Adams State’s 2020 Exceptional New Alumna: “Dr. Benson encouraged me to keep going no matter how difficult or challenging things became, academically or personally. It only takes one person who truly believes in you to make all the difference in your life.”

Rob will be missed as a father, son, brother, husband, grandfather, uncle, friend and teacher. Left to remember him with love are his sons, Nick Benson and Will Benson; his wife, Sheri Keasler-Benson; his stepchildren, Sarah Rosenau and Jacob Smith; grandchildren, Soren Benson, Austin Smith and Emerson Rosenau; parents, Robert (Bob) and Margaret (Marge) Benson; sisters Margaret (Peggy) Gyulai and Mary Jane (MJ) Benson; daughters-in-law, Stephanie Benson and Sofia Pinho Benson; son-in-law, Travis Rosenau; brothers-in-law, Chip Benson and Trace Keasler; sisters-in-law, Anna Tidwell and Julie Keasler; niece, Elsa Benson, and nephews, Greg Gyulai and Thacher Benson; as well as Laszlo (Laci) Gyulai, who Rob loved like a brother, and Frank Aldrich, Nancy Margarita Aldrich and Lucia Aldrich, to whom he was “Tío Rob.”

Rob’s family will be forever grateful to the Sarcoma Team doctors and nurses at University of Colorado Health and to Ed Kulp of San Luis Valley Health, as well as to Kendra Decker of Hospice del Valle, for her forthrightness and compassion.

Due to Covid-19 concerns, the family will not hold a service but instead invites you to visit and share your memories of him. Per his instructions, Rob’s family plans to gather in Maine for an “Irish wake” of sorts, where anyone wearing black will not be admitted. Rob is not dead. He lives on in the hearts of those whose lives he touched.

Memorial contributions may be made to the ASU Foundation Migrant STEAM Academy, a program near and dear to Rob’s heart. Checks may be sent to 208 Edgemont Blvd., Alamosa, CO 81101; credit card contributions may be made by calling (719) 587-7122.
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Karl Kuenhold

Posted at 01:45pm
Nick, My thoughts are with you, your wife, and your brother. I, of course, will always think of your dad as the strict, towering soccer referee. Like he did everything in life, he did that passionately and was good at it (even if he red carded me a couple of time). I am sorry I didn't run into him in the Valley in the last few years. Take care.

David Svaldi

Posted at 02:25pm
I was fortunate to have known Rob and worked with him between 1997 until my retirement in 2015. He was a great person and amazing colleague and faculty member at ASU. Thinking back, I do not recall EVER having a negative interaction with Rob. He was unfailingly upbeat and positive. I also never heard a negative word about him from anyone; faculty or students alike. I knew him best as our Faculty Trustee for a number of years. He always brought professionalism to the Board, representing faculty concerns in an open and honest manner. But it’s his smile I’ll always remember. He would often stop by my office and say “Hi boss!” And we would chat about various campus issues. My late Father-in law once told me that he had a friend deliver some rock specimens to Rob for analysis. Rob took the time to do so—no questions asked. My best wishes to his family and I agree that we will always have our fond memories of Rob. Emeritus President Svaldi

Margaret Doell

Posted at 10:31am
So very sorry to hear of Rob's passing. What a great man! Although I have to say my first encounter with Rob was less than positive. I was a brand new faculty member in the art department . Porter Hall was under construction, and art faculty were told we could go over to the 'old' science building to see if there was anything over there that we wanted. In matter of minutes I noticed some flat files on wheels that would be perfect for printmaking! I went over for a closer look and was about to claim them when Rob emerged from his office and told me in no uncertain terms that they were not available and would be moving with him to the new building. All these years later I came to know Rob as a kind and generous guy, who was always willing to lend a hand, or provide an ear. I often would go get his opinion when he was faculty trustee, knowing that he would be honest, and maintain confidentiality about anything we discussed. My wife, Jen, also had numerous conversation with Rob about the rocks we collected on the weekends behind our cabin in South Fork. He helped her cut some of them in half to see the wonders inside. I will truly miss seeing Rob on campus and his ever present optimism. Our sympathy to all his family & friends.
-Margaret Doell & Jen Stoughton

Melissa Moeller

Posted at 06:27pm
When I first worked at ASC, it was in the Admissions office. We needed help with our Discovery Days and would ask the faculty. Without question, Rob would always sign up to help. Potential students loved him as did current students. He was engaged and truly interested in conversation with them. He was so full of life and supportive of anyone around. He knew students' names and made it a point to talk with them. Personally, he was a good friend and was supportive of everything I mentioned to him. I loved his love for Adams State. He worked hard for us. He was respected by so many. I will miss Rob. I will miss his bigger than life smile. He was a great colleague and a great friend. Much love to the family - I'm so sorry for your loss.
Melissa Moeller

Edwin Mondragon

Posted at 04:14pm
I grew up with Nick and Will and am thinking of you guys. I didn't have your dad for class until I was taking graduate courses, but he inspired me to keep in mind that you didn't have to live in an office or classroom forever just because you decided to be a teacher. Those remote mountain trails will get a little more remote without him.

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