Where Are They Now? John Bennett

Bennett was NCAA Champion in the broad jump in 1953 and 1954.

July 18, 2011

Photo Gallery | 2008 Olympic Q&A 

In a new series exclusive to GoMarquette.com, "Where Are They Now?" catches up with former Marquette student-athletes to discover how their experiences at Marquette affected their lives following graduation. The first in the series profiles John Bennett, a two-time NCAA Champion in the broad jump and a silver medalist in the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia.

GoMarquette.com: How would you describe your time at Marquette University?

John Bennett (Bus Ad, 1954): The Korean War started in June of 1950 and I left for Marquette on September 1. I was enrolled but ready to be inducted and got deferments all the way to graduation in June 1954. This was hanging over my head constantly. Classes were in war-time Quonset huts, partially, next to the business school, then under construction. It was very cold and uncomfortable. There were many old school buildings later replaced in a massive building program and campus improvements to the credit of Pres. Edward J. O'Donnell. Conditions improved vastly in the following three years once the streets were closed off and the campus organized; still a long shot from the current campus.

MU: What do you value most from your time at Marquette University?

JB: I learned to organize my life in order to handle multiple tasks. I planned better. I worked harder to accomplish and had to graduate in four years to avoid being pulled into the service while maintaining passing grades. This was a big task as I needed to work for my room and board. I graduated on time with good grades.... still can't believe it.

MU: What are your fondest memories from playing at Marquette?

JB: Competing at the highest level of the NCAA with the best in the nation, Working with Melvin `Bus' Shimek, a father-figure and outstanding coach. Progressing from a decent prospect in the long jump to national champion while at Marquette. Training with great teammates who inspired me.

MU: What are the most memorable meets of your time at Marquette?

JB: By the time I was a junior we had an outstanding balanced team. We won both the indoor and outdoor Central Collegiate Conference titles. We competed in New York at Randall's Island in the IC4A meet in 1954 and with a half-dozen competitors took third place in a field of over 35 Ivy League teams...probably the best performance of a track squad in MU history at least to that date.

MU: Have you kept in touch with your teammates?

JB: After over 50 years I'm down to a handful of connections. Through the McCahill Award banquet annually I try to keep up with many friends and try to make new contacts. I got the award in 1954 so I feel at home.

MU: Were there any coaches who inspired you? Do you keep in touch with any of them?

JB: My dear friend, Bus Shimek, passed away many years ago as did his wonderful wife, Arlene. Occasionally I see Dan Murphy who was Bus's assistant coach, a fine person and good friend, now living in Florida.

MU: Do you think Marquette adequately prepared you for the transition from being a student-athlete to working in the real world?

JB: Yes, I feel the training at the classroom level, the track experience and the work habits helped me transition to a successful work career.

Do you still keep up with Marquette athletics?

JB: Thanks to Paul McInerny (Associate AD, Engagement and External Affairs) I get to join in the basketball gatherings and various affairs, for which I am grateful.

How did participating in college athletics affect who you are today?

JB: I was privileged to be selected to the U.S. Olympic Team in 1956 and earn a silver medal. I can say with certainty that the fine training I had at MU led to that success. In addition, I learned my tasks in merchandising sufficiently well to have a successful career with several retail chains and for the final 16 years of my career being able to open and operate my own two clothing stores. They were modest in size but provided my wife, Therese, and our four children a comfortable life and retirement. The retirement is now in its 20th year.

What are you doing now?

JB: We spend 40 percent of our time enjoying a lake home in northern Wisconsin and that means plenty of work. Fully retired, we exercise a lot, try to stay fit and hope to last many more years.

Tell us a bit about your work/company.

JB: Store management, retail, merchandising of ladies apparel, men's apparel, furniture. Rather broad experiences.

How do you spend most of your time now?

JB: We take walks daily of about 1 to 2 miles, bike in the neighborhood and occasionally on trails, we hike trails. and household duties include dropping large trees occasionally, cutting with a chain saw, splitting and stacking wood, painting, fishing, deer hunting, turkey hunting and when possible enjoying time with our children (4), grandchildren (7), and great-grandchildren (4).




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