Couple set to retire is a match made in mathematics

Couple set to retire from Augusta State

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A harmonious equation explains Jim and Michelle Benedict's lives.

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Jim and Michelle Benedict share a love of math, motorcycles, Augusta State University and their pet dogs  Michael Holahan/Staff
Michael Holahan/Staff
Jim and Michelle Benedict share a love of math, motorcycles, Augusta State University and their pet dogs

Music + Harleys + education + love + Augusta State University = what the two have known for as long as they can remember.

Their passion in the classroom and their trademark quirks have made the ASU math professors staples around campus for more than 30 years. It's what will make their joint retirement Aug. 1 a bittersweet end to their formula.

Besides their work in the classroom, the couple are known for their parts in the ASU basketball Pep Band, where Jim plays guitar and Michelle works the keyboard.

"Where else do you see a couple, two math professors, and she's on the keyboard and he's got his guitar, and they've got their jeans on and they're just doing it?" said friend Helen Hendee, ASU's vice president for development and alumni relations. "They're mathematicians, and so in one respect they're so intelligent, and at the same time they're just totally down to earth."

Jim, 64, is known to ride his Harley-Davidson through campus and wear his leather jacket at the chalkboard. He runs three miles every weekday and wrote the ASU True Blue Jaguar fight song in 1982.

His students call him Doc Jim, knowing Dr. Benedict would be too formal for "such a genuine guy," said student Matthew Wiseman.

"You don't do something for 30 years if you don't love it," Wiseman said. "Some teachers do it for the money. These two do it because they love it."

Michelle, 58, is a dog lover and a professor known to wear colorful Converse sneakers to class.

She's a musician who loves to cook and compares her skills in the kitchen to jazz music. She fell in love with math in college for its outlet for problem-solving and its open door for creativity.

"All math really feels like there's a creative side to it. Just like creativity in music. That's why mathematicians and musicians get along."

The two met in 1981 when Michelle moved to Augusta after graduating from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Jim had been a professor in the math department since 1976 but at the time was already taken.

"I had a girlfriend at the time," Jim said. "We were friends for a while because one of us was always with someone else."

The time was right in 1989, when they started dating.

The Benedicts married at 6:54 a.m. on March 21, 1991, so "1998 would be the seventh anniversary of 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1," Jim said.

Jim grew up in Jonesville, Mich., a town with a population of 1,000 and a knack for making young kids restless. It was where he first heard the Beatles in 1963, which would change his life forever.

"I couldn't stand not being a Beatle," he said. "I couldn't stand how cool they were. It changed me, my gosh. It lit a fire under me."

After earning his Ph.D. at Western Michigan University, Jim would play in bands over the next few decades, balancing traveling to gigs with becoming a professor.

Michelle was born in Jackson, Tenn., a town with conservative values, where the progressive-thinking girl felt isolated. The restlessness only fed her love for math, making her curious and hungry for learning.

"Most mathematicians went through isolation as a child. I mean stare-at-the-sky boredom," she said. "Something happens when you're alone with your thoughts that opens your mind."

When the two arrived at ASU, they began teaching math classes from beginning algebra to graduate level, influencing scores of students and colleagues along the way.

Although their plans for retirement are not completely figured out, both said they'd still like to be a part of the town that has been a part of their lives for decades.

"This city has given me a career; it's given me my music; and it's given me my wife, my goodness," Jim said.

While Jim said he is ready to leave the classroom to a younger faculty "that understands these younger students," Michelle said she has seen too many unnerving changes in the education system to stay.

"I adore teaching, but I do not appreciate the lack of support that especially the arts and science faculty get from the Georgia Legislature," she said.

"Arts and science faculty are sort of overworked and underpaid."

Either way, they both agree it is time to move on but not forget.

"I've spent the first third of my life getting ready, I've spent the next third doing this and I'll spend the next third playing," Jim said. "There's a wistfulness here."

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habersham100
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habersham100 02/07/11 - 07:50 am
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Bon voyage and God bless you

Bon voyage and God bless you both... Thank you for your service... Shalom

Chuck Odom
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Chuck Odom 02/07/11 - 08:01 am
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Congratulations to both of

Congratulations to both of them. I had the opportunity to meet and work with them a couple of years ago and they are truly a wonderful couple.

iLove
626
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iLove 02/07/11 - 02:27 pm
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What an awesome couple! They
Unpublished

What an awesome couple! They seem to be so cool and down-to-earth (unlike most professors) :)

Congratulations and Blessings!

fastgunz7
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fastgunz7 02/07/11 - 02:33 pm
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Congratulations, Jim &

Congratulations, Jim & Michelle!! What a truly inspirational couple!!

Love,
Angela & Gary

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