Douglas Bennet, Who Led NPR and Wesleyan, Dies at 79

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His tenure at the university was not without controversies. One involved his decision, in 2002, to place a moratorium on “chalking,” a university tradition in which opinions and other messages, some of them profane, would be scrawled on sidewalks. The practice, he said the next year when he turned the moratorium into a permanent ban, did not “meet the civility test.”

Some students and faculty members complained about the stifling of free speech. A group of students marched on his house chanting, “We want chalk!”

The issue was still being debated years later. In 2012 a student blog ran a five-part series called “A Decade Without Chalk.”

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.

When he left NPR, Mr. Bennet was given a farewell party that featured staff members doing impressions of him and some off-key singing.

“No wonder he’s leaving,” the NPR correspondent Susan Stamberg deadpanned in a report on the party.

She also made reference to the financial stability he had brought to the organization.

“Thanks to Doug Bennet,” she said, “we have no debts anymore, except to him.”