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March 24, 2011

AMHERST, Mass.—On Friday, April 1—five years after the building officially opened—Amherst College will host a dedication and naming ceremony for the Beneski Earth Sciences Building and Beneski Museum of Natural History, which house the college’s geology department and natural history museum. The principal benefactors of the building are Ted and Laurie Beneski of Colleyville, Texas, who until now wished to remain anonymous about their $15 million pledge made in 2008. Ted is a 1978 graduate of Amherst College.

Laurie and Ted ’78 Beneski

Prior to that private event, the college will host a lecture titled “Extraterrestrial Encounters of the Worst/Best Kind: Asteroidal/Cometary Impacts, the Demise of the Dinosaurs and the Ultimate Rise (and Fall? ) of Mankind,” by Kevin H. Baines ’76, planetary scientist in the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, at 4 p.m. in Stirn Auditorium to celebrate the dedication. (While the lecture is free and open to the public, the private dedication is only open to media. Reporters who wish to attend the dedication should please contact Caroline Hanna, director of media relations, at 413/542-8417 or

Beneski Museum of Natural History director and geology professor Peter Crowley and Amherst President Anthony W. Marx said they were glad to be able to publicly express their gratitude to the donors.

“The Beneski family’s support of this building and, by extension, the sciences at Amherst, has allowed the geology department and museum to create and develop innovative interconnections between the collection and curriculum,” said Crowley. “As a result, we’ve been able to implement top-notch programs for our students, as well as for members of the broader community. We are thrilled to recognize the Beneskis for their generous contributions.”

“The work that students and faculty are doing here now is truly advancing earth sciences research, work that will contribute to our collective understanding of the our planet’s past and allow us to better manage our resources in the future,” added Marx. “Importantly, the facility showcases the collection in a way that engages young people on campus and in the community, building their enthusiasm about science. We extend our sincere thanks and appreciation to the Beneski family for helping make all of this happen.”

Of their extraordinary gift, the Beneskis have said: “This is an investment in Amherst College and the liberal arts education, where students are exposed to myriad academic disciplines and are trained how to think, analyze and solve problems in a broad array of subject areas. We believe investments in this type of education will help us find the next generation of solutions in the fields of science, medicine, law and business and therefore serve to positively advance our global society.” 

About the Building

The Beneski Earth Sciences Building

The newly named Beneski Earth Sciences Building, which opened in spring 2006, was designed by Payette Associates, a highly regarded and award-winning architectural firm based in Boston. The 55,800-square-foot structure pays homage to the strong design features of surrounding campus buildings—such as Fayerweather Hall—and has won several prominent architectural awards for aesthetics and technical design. It stands as a physical testament to the collaborative, interdisciplinary nature of contemporary science.

About the Museum

The Beneski Museum of Natural History’s collection dates back to the earliest days of the college and today houses roughly 200,000 objects, including one of the largest collections of dinosaur footprints in the world. It is the fifth home of the natural history collection and was designed to ensure the integration of the museum collections with the building’s classrooms and laboratories. Since its opening, the Beneski Museum has proven to be a magnet for the campus and local community, welcoming more than 95,000 visitors.

About the Beneski Family

Ted and Laurie—and their children Kristin, Jeffrey and David – have deep connections to the college and the Pioneer Valley. Ted and Kristin are both alumni of Amherst (they are members of the classes of 1978 and 2008, respectively) and Laurie is a 1980 graduate of Mount Holyoke College.

After graduating from Amherst, Ted Beneski worked in commercial finance before returning to school to receive his MBA from Harvard Business School. He eventually founded a private equity firm called Insight Equity in 1998, where he has served as its CEO and managing partner. Ted is also the founder and chairman of the Ted and Laurie Beneski Foundation.

Upon graduating from Mount Holyoke, Laurie Beneski worked as a computer programmer and systems analyst. Since 1986, her predominant role has been as a mother and caretaker for her family. A lifelong supporter of education, Laurie has dedicated her time to leading school fundraising efforts and founding extracurricular programs.

The next generation of Beneskis inherited their parents’ passion for education. Kristin, 24, is in her second year at Georgetown Law; Jeff, 21, is a senior at Trinity University in San Antonio; and David, 19, is a freshman at Trinity University. Both Jeff and David plan to attend graduate school.