U of O to honor Bennett's career of service

Release Date: 4/11/2000

CLARKSVILLE, Ark. ---Dr. E. Fay Bennett said the liberal arts education he received at University of the Ozarks 50 years ago was the catalyst to a successful and diverse career serving others as an educator, minister and missionary.

Bennett, now retired and living in Clarksville with his wife Jean, will be honored with the prestigious Alumni Achievement Award by U of O during this Saturday's Alumni Awards Banquet at noon in the Seay Cafeteria. Also during the banquet, Maxine Eggensperger '41 of Fort Smith will receive the Alumni Merit Award and Joseph Reece '94 of Fayetteville will be the recipient of the Young Alumni Service Award.
   
Bennett, who grew up Clarksville, attended Ozarks in the late 1940s, graduating in 1950 with a degree in pharmacy. After working as a pharmacist a short time in Chattanooga, Tenn., he said he was called to serve the Lord and His people in ministry. He earned advanced degrees in theology from Duke University Divinity School, Princeton Theological Seminary and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary before embarking on a career in ministry. He served as pastor in churches in Virginia, Texas and California, for 10 years. In Graford, Texas, he helped revitalize a poor, small Methodist Church, constructing a new church and educational wing during his tenure there.
   
"In Graford, I learned that God is able, with our cooperation, to start with very meager resources and make something happen despite adversities and seemingly impossible difficulties along the way," Bennett said.
   
In 1968, Bennett and his wife began foreign missionary service, training young people for Christian ministry in Mexico. After learning Spanish, he taught theological studies in Bible seminary at Instituto Luz y Vida and also taught English at the University of Sonora, where he helped the university secure a new educational building. In the late 1980s, he and Jean served as missionaries in the Dominican Republic, helping to establish the country's National Evangelical University, the only Protestant university on the island and one of the few in Latin America. Bennett served as Dean of the School of Theology and taught courses in Hebrew, Greek, Bible and Theology. Jean taught courses in Christian Education and English as a Second Language.
   
In the late 1970s, Bennett accepted a position to teach at Columbia Bible College in Columbia, S.C. A professor of history, Bennett also served as advisor and sponsor to the Freshman Class and he and Jean served as tour guides for students on trips to Europe, helping fuel their life-long passion for travel. The couple has traveled to 43 countries together. Bennett helped the Columbia Bible College receive full accreditation in the early 1980s, something he said he was privileged to a part of.
   
Bennett said his career serving others stemmed from the liberal arts education he received at Ozarks.
   
"For higher education to be effective it should train the whole person --- physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually --- to the end that he or she might serve others in need," he said. "I needed a broad liberal arts education as a foundation for my ministerial vocation and Ozarks was a great place to get that foundation. I am deeply indebted to the good Lord and the University of the Ozarks for my early education and for launching me on a career to serve others."
   
Though retired, Bennett and his wife are still doing their part to make a difference, serving as members of the Johnson County Multicultural Committee, which helps to orient and integrate new Hispanics who move to the area. They also continue to travel and are writing a book on redemption entitled, "God's Extraordinary Gardens."
   
Also being honored Saturday are Eggensperger and Reece. Eggensperger is a retired high school and college teacher who taught English and social studies for 21 years at Fort Smith Northside High School and who also taught at Westark College. Reece, a native of Johnson County, is an estate planning and taxation attorney for Ball & Mourton in Fayetteville. For more information on the Alumni Awards Banquet, contact the Alumni Office at 979-1234.