Engineering Dean's Office
3044A Torgersen Hall, Virginia Tech
620 Drillfield Drive
Blacksburg, Virginia 24061
Office: (540) 231-9752
Richard C. Benson, Dean of Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering, holds the Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Chair of Engineering, funded by Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google. He has held the position of Dean since 2005.
During this period, the College of Engineering has experienced record growth. As evidence, in 2005, 4,800 prospective students applied for admission to the College. In 2015, 9,245 applied, a near doubling. The College currently enrolls close to 8,000 undergraduates and close to 2,300 graduate students. The 2015 entering freshman class is the largest in the University’s history, with approximately 1,800 students, and the total number of engineering undergraduates is 44 percent greater than in 2006-07. The entering freshman class is 23.4 percent female, well above the national average.
The College of Engineering climbed to its highest ever ranking in the National Science Foundation’s report on engineering schools’ research expenditures. The 2015 survey, reporting on figures for fiscal year 2013, shows the college at ninth place with $214.5 million in research expenditures. This number is more than double the typical spending levels before 2005. Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering has now passed Stanford, Ohio State, Illinois, University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Texas at Austin.
Prior to his current appointment, Benson was head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Pennsylvania State University beginning in 1995. Previously, while at the University of Rochester, he served as chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and prior to that was the associate dean for graduate studies in the university's College of Engineering and Applied Science.
Benson's research at the University of Rochester was primarily focused on the mechanics of highly flexible structures. He and his advisees modeled magnetic disks and tapes, paper sheets, soft contact lenses, photographic film and other easily deformed structures. He has twice been honored by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). In 1984, he received the ASME Henry Hess Award, which honors a research publication by a young author. He also became a fellow of ASME in 1998.
Benson's teaching interests are in structural mechanics, design, and applied mathematics. In 1981 he was honored as the top teacher in the College of Engineering and Applied science at the University of Rochester.
Prior to beginning his university career, he spent three years with the Xerox Corporation as a technical specialist and project manager specializing in the behavior of paper and paper transport devices.
Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree in aerospace and mechanical science from Princeton University, a Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Virginia, and a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.