The Benson Family Funds PLU’s Program in Business and Economic History


In 2004, a gift from the Benson Family Foundation of Portland, Ore., created the first fully funded, endowed chair at PLU, the Benson Family Chair in Business and Economic History. The Benson Family Foundation was created by Dale and Jolita Benson with a $3.4 million gift, the larger portion of which is intended for the benefit of PLU as one of the independent foundation’s two supported organizations.

“We envision the Benson Family Chair as providing the opportunities for students in history, economics and business to understand the political, social and philosophical contexts of current economic history,” Dale Benson said.

The PLU program in business and economic history features a curriculum of three courses, an annual lecture, a summer research fellowship for students and faculty, and support for the Innovation Studies minor. In addition, the Benson Family Chair receives financial and administrative support to pursue scholarly research and strengthen connections across the University.

Dale and Jolita Benson

The Bensons both attended PLU in the early 1960s. Dale Benson earned a bachelor’s degree in history at PLU in 1963 and both a master’s and a doctorate from the University of Maine. He says his career in the financial industry has been heavily influenced by his liberal arts background and understanding of the historical roots of the American economy.

The Bensons are parents of four daughters, three of whom are PLU graduates. One of the purposes of the Benson Family Foundation is to involve the Benson children and their families in charitable activities on behalf of supported organizations.

Benson Family Chair in Business and Economic History

Michael J. Halvorson is the current holder of the Benson Family Chair in Business and Economic History. Professor Halvorson joined the History department in 2003 and was appointed Benson Chair in 2016. He was named director of PLU’s Innovation Studies program in 2017. Halvorson’s research interests include American business history, the history of computing, and the creative use of technology in the social impact sector. He has published books and articles on the history of Microsoft Corporation, the PC Revolution, software development systems, and business software. He has also written widely about the history of early modern Europe, including the Renaissance and Reformation movements. Halvorson graduated from PLU in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, and was employed by Microsoft from 1985 to 1993. He received M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in History from the University of Washington in 1996 and 2001.

Halvorson’s recent books include Code Nation: Personal Computing and the Learn to Program Movement in America (ACM Books, 2020) and This Little World: A How-To Guide for Social Innovators, co-authored with Shelly Cano Kurtz (Routledge, 2024).

E. Wayne Carp, faculty emeritus, was the first Benson Family Chair in Business and Economic History, serving from 2004 to 2016. Professor Carp, an internationally recognized scholar on the history of adoption, received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 1981, and taught in the PLU History Department for 30 years.

Michael J. Halvorson
Professor Halvorson welcomes the PLU community to the Twelfth Annual Benson Lecture.