Date Published: October 30, 2012
A memorial service will be held at the Brooks Center for the Performing Arts at Clemson University at 2 p.m. on Dec. 2.
The daughter of the late A.G. Bennett and Caroline Weir Bennett, Alma Bennett was born in Booneville, Miss. on Nov. 28, 1940. She was preceded in death by her brother, Capt. Robert H. Bennett, Starkville, Miss., and cousin, Lt. Kenneth Seawright, New Albany, Miss.
In 1952 Alma and her family moved to Starkville, Miss. She received her B.A. in Music from Belhaven College in Mississippi, an M.S. in English from Radford University in Virginia, and spent two additional years studying piano and musicology at Indiana University. For twenty years she taught piano performance, theory and history in the United States, Libya and Japan, while also pursuing a career as a professional pianist. She went back to school and, combining her interests in music, art and literature, in 1991 completed her Ph.D. in Humanities at the University of Texas at Dallas.
A member of the Clemson faculty since 1991, Dr. Bennett was known as a generous scholar and mentor. Author of a book on the writer Mary Gordon, she also edited a collection of conversations with Gordon and published numerous articles on subjects as wide-ranging as Dante and the photographic artist Cindy Sherman. Dr. Bennett also served as president of the National Association for Humanities Education. Recently she edited two volumes for Clemson University: Women and Clemson University by Jerome Reel and a collection of biographical essays on Clemson founder Thomas Green Clemson.
As an innovative teacher, Dr. Bennett developed and taught over 30 different courses during her time at Clemson, from a comparison of the Italian, English and Harlem Renaissances to “Literature and Arts of the Holocaust,” to “East-West Exchanges of Literature and the Arts: Europe, USA, and Japan” to “The Arts, Politics and Technologies of Food” to her most recent offering, an honors seminar on the Nobel Prize winners.
Her adventurous spirit and love of travel were combined with her devotion to teaching in the many summers during which she led study abroad trips to Italy. Serving as director of the M.A. in English for ten years, she was a concerned mentor for dozens of graduate students and also an active participant and mentor in the Calhoun Honors College and the National Scholars program. For these and other services to Clemson University, she received the Bradbury Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Calhoun Honors College, the Gentry Award for Teaching Excellence in the Humanities, the Clemson University National Scholar Award of Distinction as well as the prestigious Class of 1939 Award for Excellence.
Dr. Bennett is survived by her brother, George Bennett, and wife, Sara Ann of Starkville; niece, Laurie Bennett Johnson and husband, Chip of Hernando, Miss.; nephew, Robert Bennett and wife Lisa, of Savannah, Ga.; cousins, Cordelia Seawright Bealor and husband, Jesse of Lynn Haven, Fla.; Jessi Seawright Ogburn and husband, Joe of Shelby, N.C.; and Raye Bennett Morris of Abilene, Texas.
Memorials may be made to Palmer Home for Children, Columbus, Miss.; French Camp Academy, French Camp, Miss.; or a charity of your choice.
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