When asked if he is still administratively involved with the university, a relaxed and convivial former President Doug Bennet could not help but chuckle.

“No, ma’am,” he said.

Since stepping down as president, Bennet and his wife, Midge, have moved to a small farmhouse in Lyme, CT along the Connecticut River, where they are enjoying all the perks of retired life.

“It’s nice to have time to clean the barn,” he joked.

While retirement might seem luxurious, Bennet explained that he moved on to his new life with some ambivalence. Still, he said, the shift was a necessary step to take.

“I always enjoyed the work as president and being involved at Wesleyan,” he said. “Now this is just sort of a different time of my life“different but an appropriate new stage.”

For Bennet, who was both University president from 1995 to 2007 and a member of the class of ’59, a more distant role in the University community represents a change, but not a radical one.

“I’ve had several different engagements with the University over the years and this is just a new one,” he said.

Bennet spoke passionately and enthusiastically about the University. He recalled with fondness each of the roles he has played here, singling out his inauguration day as a particularly joyful memory.

“The day I was inaugurated was wonderful,” he said. “There was this sense of opportunity, a real sense of potential. Looking back, I feel gratified that we were able to get a lot done and leave with the University poised to do a lot more in the future.”

Bennet has returned a handful of times to visit friends or attend lectures. Although he thoroughly enjoys every trip he makes back to campus, he feels it is also necessary to slightly distance himself from University life.

“One of the things we’ve done sort of on purpose is to not completely follow every little thing that is happening on campus,” he said. “That’s not really my role anymore. Now it’s time for just staying on the sidelines and cheering.”

Luckily, Bennet noted that there are many recent University changes that a sideline cheerleader can comfortably and ardently applaud. He expressed enthusiasm about President Michael Roth’s efforts, which both continue projects begun during the Bennet administration and endeavor to improve the University in entirely new ways.

“It’s wonderful to feel that you have a successor who knows the school and has a vision for where it can go,” he said.

He also praised the University’s capacity to adapt to change while staying true to certain core values.

“I am confident of the place and confident in its ability to change,” he said. “Flexibility is a big part of Wesleyan’s ability to endure. After you [as president] leave, you would never want the University to be exactly what you prescribed for it, but rather you want it to keep those values and continue to prosper.”

Bennet noted that from the moment he arrived as a college freshman until today, one central facet of a Wesleyan education has remained constant: the University’s devotion to a well-rounded, liberal arts education.

“My own career was made possible by the strength of my liberal arts career at Wesleyan,” he said. “It gave me opportunities and an ability to try different things that is extremely gratifying. Generations of people go through the place, and I think your generation will find the same. Wesleyan has an intellectual and academic vitality that will have to be constantly renewed.”

Regardless of his current distance from campus, Bennet remains confident in the University and its future.

“There would be nothing worse than sitting here on my porch having to tell you, ’I wish Wesleyan was doing this, I wish it were doing that,’” he said. “I feel really good about where the University is going.”

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