Wesleyan's Fifteenth President
Douglas J. Bennet
"A fundamental part of our mission is to encourage in our young men and women a positive outlook and the realization that they can make a difference."
The son of a Wesleyan
alumnus, and the father of two Wesleyan alumni, Douglas Bennet, who
himself graduated from Wesleyan in 1959, was born on June 23, 1938, in
Orange, New Jersey, and was raised in the Lower Connecticut River
Valley. After receiving his degree from Wesleyan, he received a master's
degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Ph.D. in
history from Harvard University.
Active in government service, Bennet was assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs when elected to the Wesleyan presidency. Prior to that he was the chief executive officer and president of National Public Radio for ten years, during which the number of listeners tripled, the number of member stations doubled, and he raised enough funds so that NPR did not have to depend totally on federal money.
Prior to his years at NPR, he had been the assistant to the economic adviser for the Agency for International Development, special assistant to U.S. Ambassador to India Chester Bowles, assistant to Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, assistant to Senators Thomas F. Eagleton and Abraham Ribicoff, assistant secretary for congressional relations in the State Department, and head of the Agency for International Development.
When Bennet came to Wesleyan as president in 1995, he developed the university's first comprehensive strategic plan, "Strategy for Wesleyan," which was adopted in 1998. In 2005 he renewed the university's strategic vision with a new plan, "Engaged with the World." The first plan defined key institutional priorities: an enduring commitment to need-blind admission; an expansion of the faculty in order to improve teaching ratios and expand scholarship and teaching in new, interdisciplinary areas; and the beginning of a program of campus renewal. The second plan includes continuing curricular innovations and renewed commitments to international studies and to science.
These priorities were supported by a history-making $281 million Wesleyan Campaign, which enabled Wesleyan to add 20 new faculty positions, create 140 new scholarships, and embark on more than $200 million in construction and renovation projects on campus. The campaign also established six endowed professorships.
Bennet also sought more collaboration with the city of Middletown, and Wesleyan participated actively in the city's development efforts, resulting, among other things, in a new downtown hotel and in the Green Street Arts Center, a community arts center meant to help revitalize the city's North End.
In May 2006, Bennet announced that he planned to step down as president at the end of the 2006-2007 academic year.