Edward Bennett

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Bennett, Edward B. III

Bank President and first quadriplegic

to graduate from Yale

Edward B. ("Edder") Bennett III, who survived a severe spinal cord injury to become the first quadriplegic to graduate from Yale College and the president of a bank, died Friday, March 3, 2017, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He was 57 years old. The cause of death was cardiac arrest, according to his sister Molly Bennett.

Mr. Bennett is the former president of the First National Bank of Santa Fe. He was an articulate advocate for the rights of the disabled and also responsible for reviving an award-winning Yale University magazine, The New Journal, which will be celebrating its 50th anniversary next month.

Mr. Bennett injured his spinal cord in a diving accident just before the start of his sophomore year at Yale University in 1979. After being carried from the water by a friend and undergoing more than a year of grueling medical procedures and rehabilitation, he returned to Yale in a motorized wheelchair, determined to finish his degree. At the time, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) had not yet been passed by Congress, and the Yale campus posed many physical obstacles to students in wheelchairs. Mr. Bennett could not walk and had only limited use of one hand. He nonetheless graduated in 1984 with a B.A. in American Studies.

He is the first quadriplegic to graduate from Yale College, according to Henry Chauncey, Jr., the Secretary of Yale University at the time.

One of Mr. Bennett's proudest accomplishments at Yale was reviving a storied magazine. Founded in 1967, The New Journal, publishes long-form non-fiction written mostly by Yale students. Daniel Yergin, who later won a Pulitzer for his non-fiction book on oil, The Prize, was one of its founders.

Mr. Bennett was the magazine's publisher before his accident in 1979. But after his injury, the magazine ran out of money and ceased publication. Soon after he returned to Yale in his wheelchair, Mr. Bennett started raising money and recruiting staff to revive the magazine. The New Journal, which is independent and self-supporting, has been publishing ever since -- for 35 years and counting. It has served as a training ground for best-selling authors and distinguished journalists at outlets including NPR, CBS News, and The New York Times.

"There are a lot of great writers and journalists who have Ed Bennett to thank for their training, and they don't know it," said Andy Court, now a producer at 60 Minutes, who worked with Mr. Bennett on The New Journal and became a close friend.

Mr. Bennett also studied at Yale Law School and Yale Divinity School but he did not complete his degrees and ultimately went into banking. He was a senior executive of First National Bank of Santa Fe from 1998 to 2004, and president of the bank from 2004-2006.

Over the years, Craig Hospital in Colorado and the Mayo Clinic campus in Arizona provided Mr. Bennett with state-of-the-art care for his injuries. Nevertheless, he suffered in recent years from severe health problems related to his quadriplegia.

Mr. Bennett was born on April 4, 1959, in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He was raised in Palo Alto, California and Indiana, Pennsylvania, and graduated from the Canterbury School in New Milford, Connecticut in 1977.

Mr. Bennett's father, Edward B. Bennett Jr., the former chairman of the board of the First National Bank of Santa Fe, died on December 11, 2016. Mr. Bennett is survived by his sister Molly Bennett, her husband Mark Nemeth, his brothers Tristam and Adam Bennett, his stepmother Blaire Bennett, and his mother Isabel Alden Johnson Byrholdt.

Throughout his life, Mr. Bennett wrote and spoke in favor of the Americans with Disabilities Act. He also argued that Americans needed to engage in a more candid and compassionate discussion about disability.

"Many people have said to me 'I would rather be dead than paralyzed,'" Mr. Bennett wrote in an op-ed published in The Baltimore Sun. "We should make sure that we don't make people believe that their lives are not worth living just because they are disabled. We are better off alive."

"Edder taught all of us who knew him about grace, humor, and vitality in the face of loss and difficulty," said Suby Bowden, a Santa Fe architect and close friend. "His was truly a life passionately lived."

A Memorial Service will be held for Mr. Bennett on Sunday, March 19th 2017 at 1:30 p.m. at the Rivera Family Funeral Home, 417 East Rodeo Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Those planning to attend are asked to email:

[email protected]

for more information

Photos Available Upon


PRESS CONTACT: Andy Court: (646) 704-6574

[email protected]


Funeral Home
The Rivera Family of Santa Fe Funeral Options
417 E. Rodeo Road
Santa Fe, NM 87505
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Published in Albuquerque Journal from Mar. 8 to Mar. 15, 2017
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