Benson Family recognizes 100-year relationship with Athens and UGA

Larry R. Benson (BBA '74) and father H.E. "Ed" Benson (BBA '42)

This feature originally ran on page 47 of the Fall 2017 issue of Georgia Magazine.

Three generations of the Benson family are recognizing their 100-year relationship with Athens and the University of Georgia by making a transformational gift to the Terry College of Business.

One of Athens’ most community-minded families contributed significant support for the second and largest phase of the Terry College Business Learning Community at the corner of Lumpkin and Baxter streets.

An artist’s rendering of all three phases of the Business Learning Community.

Benson Hall is one of three buildings that will be dedicated Sept. 15. It is named for patriarch W. H. “Howard” Benson, son H.E. “Ed” Benson (BBA ’42), and grandson Larry R. Benson (BBA ’74).

Howard, who passed away in 1971, founded Benson’s Bakery in 1918.

BensonsBakery

Benson’s Bakery was founded in 1918 by W.H. “Howard” Benson and was formerly located in downtown Athens.

Today, Benson’s Inc. is the parent company of Benson’s Bakery, which distributes cake products to retailers across the country, and Benson’s Hospitality Group, which operates four—soon to be five—hotels in the Athens area.

Howard’s son, Ed, graduated from UGA in 1942 and is now chairman emeritus. Under Ed’s leadership, Benson’s grew its Old Home Kitchens cake line by hiring UGA students to drive to each state during summers to sell fruit cakes as fundraising opportunities.

“During our 15-year partnership, UGA students would literally cover the country selling Benson’s Old Home Fruit Cakes to civic clubs, church groups and other nonprofits,” Ed says. “During our peak years, we sold to over 7,000 organizations for the holiday season.”

Athens Daily News Photo of Benson Fleet in 1966

A clipping from the Athens Daily News in 1966 that features the “Benson Fleet” heading out for the summer sales trips across the country.

Well-known UGA alumni, including former U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss (BBA ’66), are among those who participated in the sales experience as students. It was Ed’s keen interest in management and logistics that ultimately led him to diversify the company into the hospitality business.

Larry, Ed’s son, graduated from UGA in 1974 and is now chairman and CEO. His business acumen and financial expertise has grown the family business to unprecedented levels, including an expansion of the baking facility and the construction of new hotels. He has also continued his family’s strong town and gown relationships.

The Bensons’ latest contribution to UGA will leave a lasting landmark on campus that reflects the connection between the family’s Athens-based company and the university. Larry and Ed’s decision to support UGA is in recognition of the symbiotic relationship from which Benson’s Inc. has benefited over the past century—and in recognition of the future of that relationship.

“My dad and I received a wonderful education from Terry, which rewarded us with the opportunity to build our Athens-based business. Hundreds of UGA students and graduates have become valued associates of Benson’s Inc.,” Larry says. “On behalf of my grandfather, father and more than 600 associates and their families, we are pleased to honor our 100-year relationship with UGA. We are especially pleased that Benson Hall will play a prominent role in educating business leaders for the next 100 years and beyond.”

***************

As Benson’s Inc. celebrates its centennial in 2018, the company hopes to locate former students in the Benson’s Bakery Summer Old Home Fruit Cake sales program. If you played a role in the bakery’s success, please email Benson’s Bakery.