Douglas J. Bennet, who took over National Public Radio when it faced an uncertain future and spearheaded a decade of growth, died on Sunday June 10 2018 at his home in Essex, Conn. He was 79.
Mr. Bennet led Wesleyan University in Connecticut for 12 years and served in various political and government positions. Mr. Bennet took the helm at NPR in 1983, during the fiscally conservative administration of President Ronald Reagan.
Douglas Joseph Bennet Jr. was born on June 23, 1938, in Orange, N.J., and grew up in Lyme, Conn. Mr. Bennet received a bachelor’s degree at Wesleyan in 1959 and a master’s in history from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1960. After a stint as an assistant to Chester Bowles when Mr. Bowles was the ambassador to India, he earned a Ph.D. in Russian medieval studies at Harvard in 1967.
In 1967 and 1968 Mr. Bennet was an assistant to Hubert Humphrey, Lyndon B. Johnson’s vice president. From 1969 to 1973 he was an aide to Senator Thomas F. Eagleton, the Missouri senator who was briefly George McGovern’s running mate on the 1972 Democratic presidential ticket.
In the 1970s as staff director of the Senate Budget Committee — he was the first person to hold that position — and then as assistant secretary of state for congressional relations.
After leaving NPR in 1993, Mr. Bennet became assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs under President Bill Clinton. He served until taking the Wesleyan post in 1995.
Mr. Bennet’s first marriage, to Susanne Klejman, ended in divorce in 1995. His survivors include his wife, Midge Bowen Bennet, whom he married in 1996; a brother, John; and three sisters, Phoebe Bennet Boyer, Lois Bennet Hager and Mary Bennet Rhodes. They also include two sons, Michael, a United States senator from Colorado, and James, the editorial page editor of The New York Times; a daughter, Holly Bennet, global managing director of Deloitte & Touche; two stepchildren, Richard Ramsey and Elizabeth Ho Chee; seven grandchildren; and two step-grandchildren.more » « less