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Washington • Senators, former staffers and friends of the late Sen. Bob Bennett gathered Tuesday night to relish in their favorite stories about the Utah Republican and kick off a fundraising effort to create an endowed chair position at the University of Utah in the mold of Bennett's love for politics and mentoring.
Bennett, who died just over a year ago, was heralded in a gathering near the Capitol where he served for 18 years, earning a reputation as a statesman willing to cross the aisle even if it became a political liability.
"Bob Bennett was my friend," said former Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kansas. "He was a man of total honesty and integrity."
The U. is hoping to raise north of $1 million to create the chairmanship, which officials believe will help Bennett's legacy live on with future students. After losing re-election, Bennett taught at the U. and mentored students at the Hinckley Institute of Politics.
"We thought this would be a marvelous memory to honor and to try and sustain that kind of commitment to thinking about how we can all make contributions to American politics and also mentoring students to be future leaders," said Mark E. Button, the chairman of the U.'s Department of Political Science.
He said the potential person hired for the Bennett chair would be someone who is on the cutting edge of new technology and scholarship and has a national reputation. Button said he hopes the position is ready for next year.
"That's a recognition that he well deserves," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, who served alongside Bennett. "He did a lot for our state. He was an excellent senator, one of the better ones."
Bennett was student body president of the U. and earned his bachelor's degree in political science from the school. The new position would be called the "Bob Bennett Endowed Chair in American Politics, Public Service and Student Engagement."