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Honors Convocation applauds the “brightest of the bright”

Mike Benn gave this year’s convocation address.

Mike Benn ’96, G ‘99, associate coach of men’s soccer program and a former Lehigh Scholar Athlete Award winner, challenged the students selected to attend this year’s honors convocation to fully engage in and embrace their life path, to cherish their relationships and to learn from their interactions with people.

“I also challenge you to find what it is you are passionate about and chase it with vigor,” he said. “These are the most important lessons I learned at Lehigh and are why I feel so passionately about this place.”

Calling the students gathered on a mid-April Sunday afternoon in Packer Chapel “the brightest of the bright,” Benn recalled his own parents’ early emphasis on academic achievement and the challenges placed before him as a student at Lehigh.

“In my time here, I quickly discovered that it was a journey that would certainly stretch me to my fullest,” Benn said. “While I certainly appreciate and value the course content that I learned over my Lehigh career, I think it is what I learned from my experiences in and out of the classroom that best prepared me for my professional life. Lehigh’s faculty taught me how to think and solve problems.”

Characterizing his Lehigh years as “a time of exploration,” Benn admitted that he -- “like many of you” -- was not certain of career goals as an undergraduate.

“I considered law school, the FBI, business and education, and I enrolled in different types of classes hoping to find what would excite me. In the end, a lifelong passion pulled on me the strongest,” said Benn, who opted to follow in the footsteps of his mentor, head soccer coach Dean Koski.

Everyday he and his teammates spent with Koski, he said, “we were reminded of the importance of professionalism, communication, respect, teamwork and cooperation. The passion he exuded everyday while leading and shaping his group of student-athletes influenced my development as a young man and is what inspired me to realize that I wanted to have a similar impact on student-athletes in the future. It excites me to know that I am a part of the educational process that helps to shape the leaders of tomorrow.”

During this year’s event, Benn joined Lehigh University President Alice P. Gast and the deans of Lehigh’s three undergraduate colleges in honoring 664 Lehigh students for outstanding academic achievement. Recipients of academic awards, as well as juniors and seniors with a 3.6 cumulative GPA as of December 2007, were recognized.

Special honors were conferred upon several Lehigh students recognized for extraordinary academic achievement.

Former student-athlete Benn scores as associate head coach

Benn graduated with honors from Lehigh University in 1996 with a Bachelor of Arts in history and a minor in political science. He then entered Lehigh’s College of Education and earned a Masters of Education in secondary education in 1999.

In the fall of 1999, Benn went on to pursue the first of six years in the athletic department at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C. After four years as the first full-time assistant men’s soccer coach at East Carolina, Benn was promoted to head coach in 2003. At the age of 29, he became one of only 200 Division I men’s soccer head coaches in the country.

He returned to Lehigh during the summer of 2005 to serve as the soccer program’s first full-time assistant coach. A year later, he was promoted to his current role of associate head men’s soccer coach under Koski.

As an undergraduate, Benn was a member of Phi Alpha Theta, an international honor society in history. He was also voted by Lehigh’s history faculty as an honorable mention recipient for the Harmon Prize, the history department’s top award.

A four-year member of the men’s soccer program, Benn was voted team captain in 1995. In 1994 and 1995, Benn earned the team’s Scholar Athlete Award, and he received the
Scholar-Athlete Academic Achievement Award from Lehigh’s Faculty Athletics Council for each of his final six semesters.

Benn was also active with Lehigh’s COACH program during his junior and senior years, and he spent time educating middle and high school student-athletes in the Lehigh Valley.

In 2006, Benn was named as the Atlantic Region’s Assistant Coach of the Year by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America and was one of five finalists for the National Award. He was also been named as one of the top assistant coaches in the country by College Soccer News. During his career, Benn coached 34 All-League selections, four league Players of the Year and one player who earned a “cap” with the United States Men’s National Team.

Benn was part of Lehigh University’s coaching staff for Lehigh in 2006, when the men’s soccer team won a record 15 games and advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament. In the fall of 2008, he will start his fourth season as Associate Head Coach for Lehigh.

-- Linda Harbrecht

Posted on Thursday, May 01, 2008

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