John Benish

Industrial Technology '59
President for Cook-Illinois Corporation

A tip from his father-in-law started John Benish on a 38-year career with one company. Benish’s father-in-law, a corporation property-tax attorney, represented a small company that was achieving impressive annual growth rates. At his prodding, Benish interviewed and was eventually hired at Illinois School Bus Company in Oak Forest.

“Other than that, I never would have known anything about school buses,” he says.

Benish bought the business from the previous owner, expanded it, and renamed it Cook-Illinois Corporation. They operate 1,850 school buses that service over 200 school districts. His expertise led him to serve two years as president of the Metropolitan Transportation Association, which is an association of private transit operators in the Chicago metropolitan area. He also has served as a board member of the National School Transportation Association.

In 1994, Benish and his wife purchased a winery and vineyard in California and named it Benessere Vineyards. They hope to keep both of their businesses in the family.

Throughout his career, Benish says, he owes his success to two attributes: a great competitive attitude and surrounding himself with very capable people. For his successes and service, he has received the Distinguished Service Award from the Purdue President’s Council and Indiana’s highest honor, the Sagamore of the Wabash award.

Benish and his wife, Ellen, live in Hinsdale, Illinois. They have five grown children.

This was originally written for the Distinguished Technology Alumni Awards in 2009.