In memory: Jann “Paula” Benson

Jann was born on September 10, 1936, in Fort Worth, Texas, to Paul and Ruby (Sibley) Erdwinn. She died peacefully in her sleep on October 6 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.

She left her beloved home at 816 East Elizabeth Street, Fort Collins, in February 2015, and since then had been a resident of Columbine Health, first at the Winslow and then at New Mercer Commons.

Jann received a BA in mathematics and MA in philosophy from Rice University and maintained a lifelong appreciation for the education she received there. She received her PhD in philosophy from the University of Colorado, Boulder. There she met and married Steve Benson, divorcing after a short time. Jann was a professor in the Philosophy Department at Colorado State University, serving from 1967 to 1999. She authored articles on ethics and philosophical pedagogy and co-authored Strutting and Fretting: Standards for Self-esteem with Dan Lyons, published in 1991. During her three decades at CSU she was an excellent teacher and student advisor, as well as a supportive mentor to younger faculty. She chaired the department from 1994-96. In 2011 the Jann Benson Ethics Center was established at CSU in her honor.

Jann had a lifelong love of music. She played the flute from an early age, shifting to recorders when she and her friend Anne Vaughn became interested in early music. In retirement, she became even more deeply immersed in musical pursuits. She played recorders in all ranges and in numerous early music groups, and was a member of the American Recorder Society. Jann was able to play her recorder with friends Jean Scorgie, Jim Martin, and Seraina and Johannes Gessler just days before she died. In her later years, Jann took on the challenge of learning to play a stringed instrument, the viola da gamba, studying with her friend Ann Marie Morgan of Broomfield. Years earlier, she and Mary Waters created a Christmas carol collection, Christmas Without Re-tuning, which accommodated various instruments, and many friends remember gathering at her house, Christmas after Christmas, to sing and play from this book. Jann’s other creative pastime was gardening, which she did with the same sure hand and passion as she did everything she undertook. She completed the Master Gardener program through Larimer County and participated in its outreach activities. With close attention to shade patterns, she created a lovely landscape at her home. Her backyard was the site of Dave and Cory (Slauson) Huber’s wedding in 2003, and Jann meticulously planted flowers to bloom at just the right time. Many friends have transplants from the flowers, bushes, and trees in her yard.

Jann is survived by her niece, Kay Erdwinn of Los Angeles, California; her goddaughter, Cecilia Jann Barr of Denton, Texas; and many close friends. She was pre-deceased by her parents, her brother Joel, nephew Michael, and close friends Bob Harker, Bill Slauson, and Dick Sommerfeld.

Jann met her illness with dignity and remained gracious until the end. She was very grateful for the care she received from those at Columbine. Jann’s ashes will be buried in a memory garden at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. Contributions may be made in her name to Colorado Public Radio or the Southern Poverty Law Center. A memorial gathering will be held from 2-4 p.m., on Saturda, Oct. 29, at the home of Ginny Slauson, 144 South Hollywood, Fort Collins.

Visit Jann’s online memorial tribute at

Published in The Coloradoan on Oct. 16, 2016