Jim Benson’s Widow Donates Scholarship to Her Late Husband’s Alma Mater


The University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) Henry W. Bloch School of Business and Public Administration is pleased to acknowledge a $135,000 gift from Susan C. Benson in memory of her husband, Jim Benson – a UMKC alumnus and space entrepreneur. The scholarship will benefit full-time undergraduate students who have faced academic challenges but have demonstrated a personal drive, entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to success – similar to that of the late Jim Benson.

Jim Benson was a self-described undistinguished Kansas City, Mo. high school student, and went on to develop one of the world’s first space tourism companies. After high school, he worked at a gas station in Kansas City, and taught himself electronics through a correspondence course. After graduating from UMKC with a bachelor’s degree in geology, Benson joined the U.S. Energy Research and Development Administration. He later designed Chipstat – a low-cost satellite that could be operated from a laptop – and founded Compusearch, an early precursor to Google. He also served on the Board of Directors of the California Space Authority and as vice-chairman and private sector representative on NASA’s Space Grant Review Panel. In 2006, he founded Benson Space Company, which focused on commercial space tourism.

“Jim Benson came back to UMKC when he was recognized as our 2005 Alumnus of the Year. He became enthusiastic about the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and its mission to create the next generation of entrepreneurs,” said Lee Bolman, interim dean of the Henry W. Bloch School of Business and Public Administration. “We are delighted with Mrs. Benson’s generosity in remembering her husband by creating opportunities for future students to follow in Jim Benson’s entrepreneurial path.”

The University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), one of four University of Missouri campuses, is a public university serving more than 14,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. Celebrating 75 years, UMKC engages with the community and economy based on a four-part mission: life and health sciences; visual and performing arts; urban issues and education; and a vibrant learning and campus life experience.