EDMOND, Okla. (KFOR) – The University of Central Oklahoma says the former President of Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, and current Edmond resident, Andrew Benton, J.D., has been approved as UCO’s interim president.

The Regional University System of Oklahoma (RUSO) board of regents approved Dr. Benton’s appointment Friday and initiated the national search process for the permanent president of UCO following current UCO President Patti Neuhold-Ravikumar’s announced departure, effective Jan. 31, 2023.

“Andrew Benton’s national reputation for excellence in higher education makes him an exceptional choice for interim president of Central,” said Connie Reilly, RUSO board chairperson.  “As an Edmond resident, he is familiar with the university and the community. He has a keen understanding of UCO’s strengths and the value the university brings to Oklahoma.”

UCO officials say Benton has worked in higher education for 45 years.

Most notably he served as president of Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, from 2000 until his retirement in 2019. During that time, he served as chairperson of the American Council on Education, on the board of the Council on Higher Education and as chairperson of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. Early in his career, Benton spent 10 years in administration at Oklahoma Christian University in Edmond.

“While I did not anticipate being offered such a fine leadership opportunity upon returning home to Edmond, I am grateful to be able to give back to the community in which my wife and I now live,” Benton said. “The University of Central Oklahoma has a very bright future, and I am delighted to be able to play a strategic part.”

Benton currently serves on the board of directors of The Christian Chronicle and Ensysce Biosciences.