In an effort to have a change of scenery, Jeff Bennett is leaving his desk job to pursue other ventures.
Bennett is retiring after serving 14 years as the Associate Dean of Students. However, Bennett will still be an assistant for Oklahoma Christian University’s track and field team.
Bennett started his time with Oklahoma Christian as a student in 1966.
“When I came here, I was not a Christian, and as a result of coming here and learning about the Bible, I became a Christian,” Bennett said. “So coming to OC was really a transformation. It changed my life for the better.”
Bennett said that he liked the university from the beginning because of the community of the students.
“OC was kind of out here by itself, and I liked that it was relatively new,” Bennett said. “It was a small school, and I came from a small town. But what really made it special was the people, the kindness of the students and the concern professors had for the students, not just for your grades but for you as a person. That really stuck with me.”
After 28 years in public education, Bennett came back to work at Oklahoma Christian in 2006.
“He didn’t use these words, but he wanted to give back,” Neil Arter, dean of students, said. “This place had blessed him, and he wanted to come and serve here. So whenever I became dean of students, I was allowed to hire him as associate dean, and it was kind of a natural fit for him. He was a principal at his last job, so it fit him really well.”
Bennett competed in the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany as a decathlete, where he placed fourth in his event.
According to Arter Bennett has a positive outlook on his time in the Olympics, even though he didn’t win a medal.
“Jeff’s message was ‘hey, who would have thought that a kid from Vinita, Oklahoma, who gets to come to Oklahoma Christian as an average runner, would end up in the Olympics and get to see the world?’,” Arter said. “That was his approach to it. ‘Who would believe this? What an amazing story.’”
Bennett will continue working at the university as the assistant track and field coach. Freshman Maia Zeno, a thrower on the track team, said Bennett’s passion for coaching is apparent in his relationship with athletes.
“He’s not one of those really strict coaches,” Zeno said. “He loves to have fun, and he makes jokes while we’re out there. He really loves what he does.”
Zeno said Bennett stands out from her past coaches with how much effort he puts into his job.
“He really teaches me a lot more,” Zeno said. “He’s really technical. I’ve learned a lot more with him than with any other coaches.”
According to Zeno, Bennett has had a significant impact on how she sees her sport.
“In high school I didn’t really take it seriously; it was just something to do to keep me active,” Zeno said. “But now, because of him, I can say that I love what I do. I tried to get him to stay longer actually.”
As for future plans apart from the track team, Bennett said he is going to take it easy.
“I’m kind of interested in antiques, so I might get into the antique business,” Bennett said. “Play a little golf, do a little fishing.”
To learn more about Bennett and his time in the Olympics, visit Oklahoma Christian’s Eagles website.