Robert M. Bennett knows a bit about education – Catholic education, in particular.
He also has 20 years’ experience with the New York State Board of Regents.
But his own education is deeply rooted in Catholic elementary school, high school and college. And for the last eight years, he’s been a member of the board of directors for Catholic Charities of Buffalo.
So it was not a big leap of faith when Bishop Richard J. Malone appointed him Tuesday to the Diocese of Buffalo’s Catholic School Advisory Council, the panel of volunteers that advises Malone on matters related to Catholic education.
“We’re really looking forward to adding his expertise and sense of humor, as well,” said Carol A. Kostyniak, secretary for Catholic education with the diocese.
A resident of the Town of Tonawanda, Bennett was elected to the Board of Regents in 1995. In 2002, he was elected chancellor by his fellow regents. He stepped down as chancellor in 2009 and was unanimously appointed chancellor emeritus. Last March, Bennett ended his two-decade tenure when he bowed out of the contest to retain his Regents seat.
Kostyniak has known Bennett since she took office in 2006 and has been encouraging him ever since to become part of the advisory council, but his Regents role was an issue.
“He was concerned about a conflict of interest, but now that he is no longer on the Regents board, I jumped at the opportunity,” she said.
Bennett, 74, is highly respected and brings and an enormous amount of experience and expertise to the council, Malone said.
“I am sure he will make significant contributions to our efforts to build up the Catholic identity and strong academic foundation of our Catholic schools,” the bishop said.
Bennett received his undergraduate degree from University of Notre Dame and earned a master’s degree from the University at Buffalo.
The former regent served as president and CEO of the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County from 1985 until he retired in 2000. During his tenure, $240 million was raised and allocated for community services. Bennett also completed the leadership program for not-for-profit CEOs at Harvard University and the University of Michigan.
He currently serves as a distinguished lecturer in Policy and Politics in Education at Niagara University and Canisius College and is a trustee of the Statler Foundation and the John R. Oishei Foundation.
In 2005, Bennett was appointed by then-Bishop Edward U. Kmiec as a member of the diocesan Strategic Planning Commission. He is also a Eucharistic minister for St. Christopher Parish in the Town of Tonawanda, and he has an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Niagara University and Doctor of Humane Letters from Canisius and D’Youville colleges.
Bennett said he has always been an advocate for education – whether public, private or parochial – and is looking forward to attending his first meeting with the advisory council Thursday. “I’m very happy to accept that work,” Bennett said. “I’ve been many, many years as a member of the pope’s flock.”