Journalism Alumna Establishes Endowment Fund honoring former Department Chair

Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020


A journalism alumna has created an endowment fund in the name of a former Cronkite journalism chair to show her gratitude for his mentorship and support.

The ElDean Bennett Memorial Endowment Fund has been established by Lauren Abel, an alumna of ASU’s College of Public Programs, which housed the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication before the journalism school became independent.

The money will be used to support multiple projects across the Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, to be used at the discretion of the Dean.

“Dr. Bennett’s kindness, guidance and faith in my ability drove my entire college education experience. His support has driven every aspect of my career…from my first career in radio news, to my second career as the owner of a public relations company to my current career in healthcare,” Abel said. “Dr. Bennett taught me how to be a good public servant, whether telling others about what is going on in their community and the world or helping others live a higher quality of life.”

Bennett took over as chair of the journalism program in 1979, when it changed its name to the Journalism and Telecommunications Department and became part of the newly-formed College of Public Programs. Bennett provided the leadership to establish the Walter Cronkite Endowment when Cronkite, former anchor and managing editor of the CBS Evening News, not only permitted the use of his name but also became an active participant in school activities.

The journalism department was elevated to a school and became the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Telecommunication in 1984 under Bennett’s leadership

Cronkite Professor John Craft, who is also curator of the Cronkite Gallery, credited Bennett with procuring more funding through grants and endowments, which enhanced the school’s programs and reputation.

“I was very happy for him to become chair of department. He brought a little bit in terms of broadcasting to the school,” said Craft, who has taught at the Cronkite School since 1973. “He was a star in terms of getting the school on track and primarily being able to get funding coming in.”

Craft described Bennett as a “fatherly kind of guy” who still advised students after he was appointed to lead the journalism program. “He was a well-liked instructor and a good guy,” he said.

Bennett was known for spending hours with students talking with them about their academic programs and progress, offering career advice, sharing insights and listening to students’ concerns.

Since she graduated from ASU, Abel has established herself as an entrepreneur, public relations and health expert with her Abel to Cook, Abel Fitness Training and Abel Associates Public Relations companies.

Abel described how Bennett assisted her when she first arrived at ASU, helping her enroll in school even though it seemed all the classes were full. He then served as her adviser.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t think fondly of Dr. Bennett and thank him in my heart for all that he has done for me,” she said.