Douglas J. Bennet
|15th President of Wesleyan University|
July 1, 1995 - June 30, 2007
|Michael S. Roth|
Douglas Joseph Bennet Jr.
June 23, 1938
Orange, New Jersey, U.S.
|Died||June 10, 2018 (aged 79)|
(m. 1959; div. 1995)
Midge Bowen Ramsey (m. 1996)
|Children||Michael and James|
|Education||Wesleyan University (BA)|
University of California, Berkeley (MA)
Harvard University (PhD)
Douglas Joseph Bennet Jr. (June 23, 1938 - June 10, 2018) was an American political official and college president. He was the fifteenth president of Wesleyan University, in Middletown, Connecticut, from 1995 to 2007. Before that, he served as Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs in the Clinton Administration (1993-95) and Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs in the Carter administration (1977-79), was the President and CEO of National Public Radio (1983-93), and ran the U.S. Agency for International Development under President Carter (1979-81).
Born in Orange, New Jersey, to Douglas Joseph Bennet, Sr. and Phoebe (Benedict) Bennet, Bennet grew up in Lyme, Connecticut, and attended the local public schools. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wesleyan University in 1959, an M.A. in history from the University of California, Berkeley in 1960, and a doctorate in history from Harvard University in 1968.
In 1970, he announced his candidacy for the Democratic primary for Connecticut's 2nd congressional district, which was vacated by the death of Congressman William St. Onge, but later withdrew from the race. In 1974, he sought the Democratic nomination for the same seat, but was defeated at the district convention by Christopher Dodd
He later served on the staffs of Missouri Senator Thomas F. Eagleton, Minnesota Senator Hubert H. Humphrey, and Connecticut Senator Abraham Ribicoff. In 1977, Bennet became United States Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs.
Bennet succeeded John J. Gilligan as the administrator of the United States Agency for International Development in 1979, where he served for two years. After heading a private research institute, he was named head of NPR in 1983. In 1993, President Bill Clinton named Bennet as Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, where he served until 1995.
In April 1995, Bennet succeeded William Chace, becoming the fifteenth president of Wesleyan University. Bennet developed Wesleyan's first comprehensive strategic plan, "Strategy for Wesleyan," adopted in 1998. He renewed the institution's strategic vision, in 2005, with a new plan, "Engaged with the World." The "Strategy for Wesleyan" defined key institutional priorities: an expansion of the faculty in order to extend scholarship and teaching in new and interdisciplinary areas; a reaffirmation of the University's commitment to need-blind admission; and a program of campus renewal. "Engaged with the World" included further and continuing curricular innovations and renewed commitments to science and international studies.
A $281 million fundraising campaign supported these priorities and enabled Wesleyan to create 140 new scholarships, add 20 new faculty positions and six endowed professorships, and embark on more than $200 million in renovation and construction projects on campus. Bennet also sought better and increased collaboration with the city of Middletown. Under his guidance, Wesleyan participated actively in the city's development efforts, which resulted in, among other things, a new hotel downtown and the Green Street Arts Center, "a community arts center meant to help revitalize the city's North End."
On May 4, 2006, Bennet announced that he would step down as president following the 2006-2007 academic year. The last several years of his twelve-year presidency were contentious in some respects, with opposition by a minority in the student body on certain matters. Some students believed Bennet's fundraising priorities conflicted with the interests and needs of the student body, and the university's mission of education. A student movement came to a head in December 2004, when approximately 250 students (of more than 2,700 undergraduates) protested in front of the administrative building South College, where Bennet's office was located, demanding that he address student concerns. On March 26, 2007, Wesleyan's Board of Trustees announced that Michael S. Roth would succeed Bennet as president for the 2007-2008 academic year.
In 1994, Bennet received an honorary doctor of laws degree from Wesleyan; in 2008, he received an honorary doctor of laws degree from Trinity College. In 2011, Bennet was named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2012, a residence hall in the Fauver Frosh housing complex at Wesleyan was renamed Bennet Hall in honor of former President Bennet.
On June 27, 1959, Bennet married Susanne Klejman of Washington, D.C. They have three children, Michael, James, and Holly. They divorced in 1995. In 1996 he married Midge Bowen Ramsey, a vice president at National Public Radio.
In 2006, his son James was named the editor-in-chief of The Atlantic Monthly. In 2009, his son Michael was chosen by Governor of Colorado Bill Ritter to represent Colorado in the United States Senate, replacing Ken Salazar, who was appointed as Secretary of the Interior in the Obama Administration.
Robert J. McCloskey
| Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs
March 18, 1977 - August 2, 1979
J. Brian Atwood
John J. Gilligan
| Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development
M. Peter McPherson
| President and CEO of National Public Radio
John R. Bolton
| Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs
May 25, 1993 - May 31, 1995
Princeton N. Lyman