Richard R. Bennett and Sandra K. Baxter, CAS/MA '73

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Sandra Baxter and Richard BennettAmerican University has been central to the lives of Sandra Baxter and Richard Bennett for over 40 years. Through the decades, each has worn several hats—faculty member, student, AU parent, donor, and ardent fan of the AU Eagles sports teams.

Sandra Baxter earned an MA in sociology at AU in 1973. Through her academic research, Baxter helped introduce the term "gender gap" in Women and Politics: The Invisible Majority, which she co-authored. She founded a market research company and serves as a faculty fellow in residence at AU's School of Public Affairs (SPA).

Richard Bennett joined the SPA faculty in 1979. He is admired as a teacher and mentor. Bennett is an expert in comparative criminology, criminal justice, and police procedures—topics on which he has published extensively. He chairs the Department of Justice, Law & Criminology; it is the fifth time he has held the post.

Baxter and Bennett have co-authored work and even shared an AU office. The Bennett children, Courtney and Drew, grew up on campus—from the AU Child Development Center to serving as Junior Eagles for the AU men's basketball team. Both are AU alumni—Courtney Nel Svajian earned a BA in 2004, majoring in communication and justice; Andrew Bennett received a BA in justice in 2009, and an MS in 2012. Drew met his wife, Erica Rosner (SPA/BA '06), during an AU summer program.

The family's deep roots at AU inspired them to include the university in their estate plans and establish the Bennett Family Endowed Scholarship Fund to support scholar-athletes on AU's women's sports teams. Making the gift as part of the AU Legacy Challenge allowed the family to direct matching funds to support SPA and women's athletics immediately.

AU Athletics took on special meaning during the four years Courtney played on the women's lacrosse team. She was co-captain when the team appeared in the NCAA tournament. Baxter and Bennett appreciate what scholar-athletes bring to their AU studies. "They learn about time management and are respectful about how little time there is if they want to do all the things they love. It brings on maturity, complex thinking, and strategy," Baxter says.

"We felt it was important to give back to a place that has been our home for over 40 years. We want to help others have our experience," Bennett says.

"AU is on a wonderful trajectory in terms of students, quality of faculty, and facilities," continues Baxter. "That's the kind of thinking we want to support."

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