Ruth Benson, pioneering leader of state’s Education Department, dies at 91

A lifelong educator with an insatiable sense of curiosity, Ruth Evelyn (Larsen Randall) Benson delighted in connecting with students.

Benson reached the pinnacle of her profession when she broke new ground as Minnesota’s first female commissioner of education from 1983 to 1990.

But along the way, it was the special connection between teacher and student that perhaps resonated the most, said her daughter, Diane Randall of Washington, D.C.

“She believed teaching is a noble profession, that teaching could make the world a better place,” her daughter said.

Benson, of Apple Valley, died Sept. 10 after a brief hospitalization. She was 91.

Born March 4, 1929, on a farm in Underwood, Iowa, she became an elementary school teacher in Iowa and Nebraska, rising to principal and administrator of Omaha Public Schools beginning in 1967.

Her daughter said she was drawn to teaching, “because she relished learning, the human interaction between teachers

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