John Beecher Bennett was born in Dallas, Texas on November 3,1940, to Samuel Beecher Bennett and Gerta Gray Bennett. After graduating from Pensacola High School in 1958, he received a Bachelor of Arts from Southern Methodist University in 1962, majoring in English and philosophy. Graduate degrees include Master of Divinity from Perkins School of Theology (1964); Master of Philosophy (1965) and Doctor of Philosophy (1969) degrees from Yale University. William Christian advised John on his dissertation: Whitehead’s Philosophy of Personal Experience.
John was professor of philosophy at Northland College from 1969 to 1975. After a year (1975-76) as American Council on Education Fellow in Academic Administration at Texas Tech University, he joined the staff at The American Council on Education in Washington, D.C. In 1986 he became Provost and Dean of the College at Siena Heights College in Adrian, Michigan. He became Provost at Quinnipiac College in Hamden, CT in 1990, retiring in 2014 as Provost Emeritus, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Scholar in Residence.
Publications include over one hundred scholarly articles and six books, most notably Collegial Professionalism: The Academy, Individualism, and the Common Good (The Oryx Press, 1998); and Academic Life: Hospitality, Ethics and Spirituality (Anker Publishing Company, 2003). With extensive experience as faculty member, administrator, and author, John made significant contributions to the challenges of academic leadership: the role of department chairs; collegiality in the academy; virtue ethics; process philosophy; and the wedding of practical and theoretical aspects of teaching and learning. He is perhaps best known for his creative work on virtue, exploring the intellectual virtue of hospitality as foundational to the work and health of the academy. John described academic hospitality as “the extension of self in order to welcome the other by sharing and receiving intellectual resources and insights.”
He is survived by his wife of 35 years Elizabeth Ann Dreyer of Hamden, CT; daughter Jennifer Rhode Harrison (Jeffrey Harrison) and grandson Henry Harrison of North Plains, OR; son Jeffrey Beecher Bennett (Celeste Baskett) and grandchildren Jasper Bennett and Iris Eleanor Bennett, of Portland, Oregon; sister Elizabeth Johns (Donald Evason) of Hagerstown, MD; and brother, Sam Bennett (Hedweg Schuler) of Corvallis, OR.
On August 3, 1985, John and Elizabeth married, inaugurating a partnership of profound love and commitment, filled with abundant blessings – dear friends, joy, tenderness, mutual respect, humor, passion, conversation and writing. Their marriage survived serving as each other’s primary literary editors; they enjoyed traveling and engaging cultures in over forty countries; and provided undying mutual support in good times and bad. They nurtured this extraordinary gift of love, extending it to all who crossed their path or shared their table.
We are grateful for the faithful, loving support of so many family members and friends. Words fall short when describing the many heartfelt gestures of kindness we received -- material (food and drink) and spiritual (presence and prayer). During the six years of John’s illness, we were held up by a core of hospice nurses and staff, volunteers, and beloved aides. The team of five CNA's who were with us for the long haul until the end include Nana Nti-Kusiwaa, Jaime Sargent, Autumn Davila, Cynthia Opoku-Ware and Janice McFarland. They became treasured members of our family for whom we hold abundant love and gratitude.
In addition to deferential reference for all people and the earth; love of the intellectual life; and commitment to higher education, John exuded an appreciation of beauty in all its expressions. Most notably, he was known and lauded for his skills as a photographer. His was a life of gentle care, honesty, courage, humility, curious about the world and compassionate toward others. His subtle, and often hilarious sense of humor was present to the end. He was an amazing listener, a prodigious learner, a tender, passionate lover.
A mantra-like abundance of personal testimony confirmed that John left virtually everyone he met feeling more alive, more loved, more aware of their gifts and potential. He was given the nicknames “walking beatitudes” and “Mr. Awesome” for a reason. The world is a better place for his having graced it with his presence. We are grateful -- he will be sorely missed.
Gifts in John’s name may be sent to Northland College (www.northland.edu); Connecticut Advocates for Parkinsons (http://parkinsonsct.org/) or a charity/movement of your choosing. Due to COVID-19, all services will be private.
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