The Dr. Ralph B. Bennett Memorial Endowed Fund for Excellence was established for the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. The endowment was established in memory of Ralph Blount Bennett by his wife, Donna V. Bennett, and daughters, Rebecca Ruth Bennett and Leah Elizabeth Bennett Edwards, for the purpose of providing funds for excellence in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics.
Ralph Bennett served as a faculty member in the Department of Mathematics at Auburn from 1966 to 1971. Donna Bennett served as managing editor of the journal Topology Proceedings at Auburn for many years and retired in 2001.
At the memorial service held shortly after Ralph Bennett's untimely death at the age of 32, one of his first graduate students, Jerry Williams, described Bennett's complete dedication to mathematics, to teaching, and to each of his students. The scholarship is the family's way of sharing that dedication with future generations.
“I would like to take this great opportunity to express appreciation to the Bennett family on behalf of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. The family has provided strong support and contributions to the department over the last several decades,” said T.Y. Tam, chair and Lloyd and Sandra Nix Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. “The fund will be used to recognize outstanding graduate students in the form of the Dr. Ralph B. Bennett Memorial Graduate Fellowship. The fund may also be used for undergraduate scholarships for students in mathematics or statistics.”
Ralph Bennett was born in Galveston, Texas, on Dec. 28, 1939, but spent most of his formative years in the Chicago area. After graduating from The Illinois Institute of Technology with a bachelor's degree in mathematics, he enrolled as a graduate student at the University of Tennessee. When he left Knoxville four years later, he took with him a doctorate, a beloved wife and a new daughter. Following a short stint at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., the young family, now larger by one more daughter, arrived in Auburn in 1966.
Upon his arrival at Auburn University, Ralph Bennett proceeded to immerse himself in the academic life he so treasured. His few short years at Auburn were filled with teaching, advising, researching and publishing his findings. The chairman of the math department at the time, L.P. Burton, called Ralph Bennett a new creative talent who brought scholarly excellence and a love of teaching to a department in great need of (such) inspiration.
His contributions to the university were recognized when, in 1969, Ralph Bennett was given a special appointment as an Alumni Associate Professor. One of the final accolades to his work came in 1971 when he was awarded a grant for study and research at the Polish Academy of Sciences from the National Academy of Sciences.
Ralph Bennett was characterized as a quiet, reserved, patient person who related to others in a friendly, genuine manner. He was known as an independent thinker, with a subtle, charming sense of humor. In the words of Burton, "Ralph Bennett was respected and loved by all who knew him."