Former South Carolina First Lady Jenny Sanford says she’s interested in replacing outgoing College of Charleston president George Benson.
“I would certainly welcome the opportunity to be involved in that process,” she told City Paper in an interview this morning. She added she hasn’t been in formal talks with anyone at the school.
“I am, right now, just waiting to see what the formal process is,” she said. “I understand I would be a long shot, but it certainly is something I would consider looking at.”
Higher education is crucial to South Carolina, the former first lady said.
“Higher ed in general is at a crossroads in our nation and I think it’s very important that we make sure that the College of Charleston is an institution that can continue to thrive in this wonderful community — and I would bring a unique set of qualifications for that position,” Sanford said. “There are pros and cons to the experiences I have.”
An Illinois native, Sanford graduated from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and worked for six years at the Lazard Freres investment bank on Wall Street where she became a vice president in mergers and acquisitions. She later managed her ex-husband’s campaigns for Congress — his first race for Congress in the 1990s — and governor in 2002. In 2010 she published a memoir, Staying True.
Outgoing CofC president Benson, 67, who has led the school since 2007, earlier this month said he would be stepping down in June 2014. He currently makes $366,000 per year at the post. Benson will continue to teach business classes at the college. The school’s 20-member board of trustees will pick his successor. Seven of them are new.
Benson is a friend of Sanford’s. According to a 2010 ABC News story, he had actually introduced her to a Georgia businessman who Sanford began dating after she delivered a speech at the College of Charleston that March. Sanford and her husband Mark divorced following news of his much-publicized 2009 affair. Mark Sanford now represents the South Carolina Lowcountry in Congress.
This isn’t the first time Jenny Sanford’s name has appeared as a possibility for a high-profile position. In December she was reportedly on Gov. Nikki Haley’s shortlist to replace U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint when he resigned before his term ended. Haley ultimately appointed Charleston Congressman Tim Scott to that post.
Sanford said she’s been quietly working on other business ventures as she plans her future.
The College of Charleston and Jenny Sanford share history. Literally. Last year she donated several boxes of her papers, scrapbooks, emails and letters to archivists at the college.
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