Robert Bennett

  • Born: December 18, 1941
  • Died: March 16, 2020
  • Location: Newark, Delaware

R.T. Foard & Jones, Inc.

122 W. Main Street
Newark, DE 19711

Tel. (302) 731-4627

Tribute & Message From The Family


Message From The Family

Thank you for your support during this difficult time. Please enhance this tribute to Robert by adding your memories and photos.

Robert "Bob" Bennett, age 78, passed away peacefully at home on March 16, 2020, surrounded by his family. Born in 1941 in Washington DC to the late John Faber Bennett and Sophie Beale Bennett, he was the beloved husband of Joan, to whom he was married for 54 years, dear brother of John Bennett (Diana), proud father of Miriam Bennett (Jon Miller) and Aaron Bennett (Sarah Dunbar), and devoted grandfather "Bop" to Maya and Rowan Miller, and Otis Bennett.

Robert taught English literature at the University of Delaware, specializing in Shakespeare and modern theater. The author of Romance and Reformation: The Erasmian Spirit of Measure for Measure and many articles, he enjoyed teaching both English and non-English majors, demonstrating that the lessons and delights of Shakespeare are as accessible to athletes and engineers as to anyone else, especially when aided by his memorable "acting projects."

From his youngest age, Robert was an athlete. At age 10, he played 85-lb. football scoring 15 out of 20 touchdowns for his team during one undefeated season. Teammate Steve Rickert recalls, "He simply put the ball under his arm like a loaf of bread and took off like a rocket, while his mother yelled out, 'That's my boy!'. He won the All-Metropolitan Championship in wrestling as a teenager at St. Albans School, where he also pursued one of the greatest loves of his life, running. At the University of North Carolina, he ran with his team to conference championships in track and cross-country. He kept running throughout the rest of his lifeā€”at Stanford where met Joan and earned his Ph.D., and in Newark, Delaware, where, with Mark Deshon, he co-founded the Creek Road Runners. At each stage of his running career, he made friends, fostered community, and whooped his competitors.

Robert was a passionate nature enthusiast, trail maintainer, mountain hiker, and environmental activist. He taught his children the great mysteries of nature as they lay under the stars at Yosemite and Glacier National Parks. On other adventures he helped rescue fellow backpackers from quicksand, fell on the North Slope of the Grand Canyon into Kanab creek (that floated him and his 35-lb. pack down a steep half-mile toward the Colorado River), and encountered a mother grizzly bear and her cubs while camping with his own daughter, who was pregnant with his first grandchild. When not on Western mountaintops, he could regularly be found walking and maintaining trails near home in Delaware. He faithfully filled squirrel-proof bird feeders in his backyard, and when the call went out for someone to stand guard over the eggs of a wayward sea turtle, he was there.

Active in many environmental groups both local and national, Robert initiated the effort to create a Delaware chapter of the Sierra Club shortly after his arrival in 1969. He worked closely for over 40 years with Dorothy Miller, Don Sharpe and other Delaware environmental heroes. In 1990, he defiantly parked his station wagon in front of a bulldozer he caught carrying out an illegal attempt to start demolition of wetlands for an unapproved construction project, an action that caused the Delaware State Senate to commend "his courageous demonstration of commitment to the cause of preserving the integrity of the White Clay Creek Valley."

In his studies of drama, his camaraderie with fellow athletes and activists, his connection to animals and nature, his deep love for his family, Robert lived out the same principles that he revealed to his students and readers in his teaching and his writings. The key to a good life, he taught us, is humility, a truth that can be understood through the Christian humanism embodied in Shakespeare's art and Erasmus' philosophy. Throughout his life, Robert carried with him a hand written copy of this prayer:

O God of peace, who hast taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be our strength: By the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee, to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou art God.

To those who would like to honor Robert's memory, the family suggests a contribution to "St. Thomas's Episcopal Church" or to "The Nature Conservancy-Delaware," which can be sent in care of R.T. Foard & Jones Funeral Home, 122 W. Main St., Newark, DE 19711. A celebration of his life will be held at St. Thomas's Episcopal Church in Newark, Delaware, to be announced at a later date.


Condolence & Memory Journal

Condolences to Dr. Bennett's family during this difficult time. I took a class in Shakespeare with him many moons ago. I most remember the kindness and compassion he had for me, when he saw I was struggling.

Carolyn Segal Schnell B.A. English '86

Posted by Carolyn (Segal) Schnell - Lincoln Park, NJ - Student   May 14, 2020

I'm sorry to hear of Dr. Bennett's passing. I had the pleasure of taking his English literature class in the mid-1970s and still recall the great class discussions on Paradise Lost and The Canterbury Tales. But my absolute favorite memory? One beautiful spring morning when one student suggested we have our class outside. Dr. Bennett said, "Well, I'm game," and we trooped outside where he taught our class as we sat under a huge old tree on the main mall, in the sunshine with the birds singing. What a fantastic morning; what a great teacher.

Posted by Dot Cannon - Long Beach, CA - Student   May 13, 2020

Dear Joan,
I am so sorry for your loss. This is the first we heard of it.
Leslie Goldstein
P.s. Phil too sends condolences. Stay safe.

Posted by Leslie Goldstein - Newark, DE   May 13, 2020

Bob was the soul of kindness, a quiet, gentle, and friendly presence in the English Department (although I've heard he could be a bit more aggressive in a race!). I always associate the running trail along White Clay Creek with Bob, which is a wonderful legacy.

Posted by Matt Kinservik - Newark, DE - Coworker   May 13, 2020

I grew up with Robert and brother Johnny in the Cordova apt. Building. They had a beautiful two story apt with an alcove for their family piano. Father was a famous navy man whose idea saved a famous ship that was stuck on a sand bar. Mother was a southern lady that fixed us stacks of delicious pancakes. The boys went to John Quincy Adams elementary school briefly and then attended StAlbans thru high school. They had moved to Chevy Chase dc by then. Robert was a fast runner and could beat all of us in our neighborhood races even though he was the youngest of our group of kids in the building. Thought one of them had a birthday near Christmas and always got fewer presents as a result of people doubling up their gifts. I was between them in age and learned that even though they fought each other when we played, blood was thicker than water if you came between them. very sad to learn of Roberts passing so recently. Just felt like googling he and Johnny for some reason this morning. He was special and may he Rest In Peace. His friend, Bill Gaylord.

Posted by A friend   April 20, 2020

Sending our condolences to Joan, Miriam and all of Bob's family. He was truly a rare and special person.

Posted by Anne Langsdorf - Grantham, NH - Family Friend   March 26, 2020

Bob was a good friend and frequent contributor to environmental initiatives in the Newark, DE area. In so doing, he made our world a better place for all of us. My sincere condolences to the Bennett family.

- Andy Urquhart, Oxford, PA, Mar 25, 2020

Posted by Andy Urquhart - Oxford, PA - Friend   March 25, 2020

Bob was a wonderful faculty member, friend, nature lover and trail maintainer. But like Jack Townsend has pointed out, I could never run with him. He put me in his dust every time. All of the Carpenter Sports gang will forever miss him.

Posted by Tim Brooks - Newark, DE - Coworker   March 25, 2020

Bob was one of my all-time favorite UD colleagues. While I did not share his passion for running, we were totally like-minded in our love of hiking. Heartfelt condolences to Joan and the extended Bennett family. Treasure the memories!

Posted by John Burmeister - Newark, DE   March 25, 2020

Robert and Joan--dear, gentle friends. You went through the passages of young careers and young children with Tom and me. You could run forever, Bob. And you knew early on how precious and in need of protection are our wild-ish places. Well run!

Posted by Bonnie Scott - San Diego, CA   March 24, 2020

My condolences to you, Joan, on the loss of Robert. May he rest in peace and rise in glory. You're in my thoughts.

Posted by Sarah Brockmann - Scituate, MA   March 23, 2020

Aaron, I met your father at yours and Sarah's wedding. He seemed like a kind and special man. So sorry for your loss.
Sarah Hakulin and family.

Posted by Sarah Hakulin - Millersville, Md.   March 23, 2020

Ernest, gentle, devoted, humble. Peace to you. Robert.

Posted by Stephen Bernhardt - Santa Fe, NM   March 23, 2020

Such a good colleague for so many years. Yes, I once tried to run with him and yes he left me in the dust. Bob's combined love for family, literature and the environment says it all. Blessings to all his family.

Posted by Bernard Kaplan - Metuchen, NJ - Coworker   March 23, 2020

Bob and I arrived at the University of Delaware simultaneously, in September 1969. He was my first office mate, in the old house across South College Avenue from Memorial Hall. I knew him as a kind, gentle man, dedicated to his students, his research, and the causes he believed in. My sympathies are with Joan at this sad time, and with all of the Bennett family.

Posted by Jerry Beasley - Traverse City, MI   March 23, 2020

What a lovely man. What an ideal colleague, so supportive and enthusiastic. He and Joan are one of my happiest memories of Delaware.

Posted by Lois Potter - London   March 23, 2020

A great man as a teacher in the '80s and then as a colleague. When I encounter Shakespeare, I hear his his voice.

Posted by Bernard McKenna - Newark, DE   March 23, 2020

I first met Bob and Joan Bennett at St. Thomas's Episcopal Church around 1990. I quickly appreciated that Bob was a gentle soul who loved teaching at the University of Delaware and sharing with students his love of literature, especially Shakespeare.

I first raced against Bob at a 5K at St. Thomas's in October 1993. I remember it because it was my fastest 5K ever, and he beat me. My last run with him was a very nice couple of miles at the end of December 2014, at the annual Fair Hill trail event.

Bob wrote a book, Romance and Reformation: The Erasmian Spirit of Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, which was published by the University of Delaware Press in 2000. The Erasmian in the title refers to the great Dutch humanist Erasmus. Like Erasmus, Bob was a scholar and a humanist. I am glad I knew him. I will miss him.

Posted by William Rose - Hockessin, DE   March 22, 2020

A warm, gentle and generous colleague. Bob truly was a gentleman and a scholar.

Posted by Ben Yagoda - Coworker   March 22, 2020

So kind, so gentle. It was a pleasure to have gotten to know this very special man.

Posted by Claire and Gary Dunbar - West Newbury, MA   March 22, 2020

So gentle, so kind. It was our pleasure to have
gotten to know this special man.
Claire and Gary Dunbar

Posted by A friend   March 22, 2020

We will miss you Bop. We love you.

Otis and Sarah

Posted by Sarah Dunbar - Somerville, MA   March 22, 2020

While I could never run with Bob, he often ran with me. He helped me to my best ever 10k at mt. Lebanon church in north Wilmington. Will always have fond memories of white clay creek runs together.

Posted by Jack Townsend - Newark, DE   March 21, 2020


Family Album