Saying goodbye after 30 years

August 1st, 2017

Dr. Benson says so long

As Dr. Byron “Pete” Benson, Regents Professor in diagnostic sciences and imaging center director, prepared for his last workday July 31, it’s no surprise he maintained a full schedule to the very end. That focus is one reason he accomplished so much during his 30 years at Texas A&M College of Dentistry.

“Beyond the administrative stuff, he comes to work every day, rolls up his sleeves and gets down in the trenches,” commented Dr. John Wright, Regents Professor and department head of diagnostic sciences, at a retirement reception for Benson earlier in July. “He is kind, honest, professional and fair. One of the things I admire the most about Pete is that he leads by example.”

Wright highlighted positive feedback from dental students for the radiology division and Benson’s role as a “driving force” behind the graduate program in oral and maxillofacial radiology, established in 2014 as one of only nine such graduate programs in the country. It celebrated the graduation of its first resident in May.

“The fact the program has full accreditation now is a remarkable accomplishment,” Wright said.

The nationally renowned Oral and Maxillofacial Imaging Center, opened in 1994, is another hallmark of Benson’s tenure. Beyond serving patients of the college, its sophisticated diagnostic imaging services are a resource for the practicing community, with advanced studies overseen and interpreted by board certified oral and maxillofacial radiologists on the faculty.

Nationally, Benson served as president of both the American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology and American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology, in addition to a term on the Commission on Dental Accreditation. He was instrumental in the specialty’s push for American Dental Association recognition, with positive results: It received official recognition as a dental specialty in 1999.  A retired Navy Reserve captain, Dr. Benson is the civilian consultant in oral and maxillofacial radiology to the U.S. Air Force Surgeon General.  He is also a fellow of both the American and International College of Dentists.

Professional accomplishments aside, it’s the personal qualities that coworkers have appreciated on a daily basis.

Longtime radiology colleague Dr. Hui Liang, professor in diagnostic sciences, told Benson at the reception, “I have never met anyone like you who is so passionate and excited about our profession. You are focused and dedicated to a job you like, always finding joy at work, and also reminding us that family is the most important part of life.”

Benson didn’t make this retirement decision lightly, despite his eagerness to devote more time to his wife, children and grandchildren.

“Part of the reason I had to think about it was all the people I’ve had the pleasure of working with,” he said. “Our faculty and staff are incredible; I enjoy working with everyone.”

Now Benson looks forward to being with his “guiding light” – wife, Jane – whom he has known since high school and credits for her encouragement and support: “We’ve been best friends since age 16.”

Dr. Benson and Dean Wolinsky

— Carolyn Cox