Donors follow family example of helping others

KENNESAW, Ga. | Nov 23, 2020

Rick and Julie Bennett
Rick and Julie Bennett

Inspired by the lessons from their own fathers to work hard and help others, Rick and Julie Bennett have established an endowment to provide scholarships for many Kennesaw State University students in the years to come.

Rick, a Kennesaw State Foundation trustee, and his wife Julie have committed $100,000 for the William N. Bennett and Jule Blair Memorial Scholarship, named after their fathers, to assist KSU Journey Honors College students pursuing accounting degrees. Their contribution will increase to $250,000 through the 150 percent endowment matching program established earlier this year by John and Rosemary Brown and the KSU Foundation.

“We wanted to make this contribution, and the match enhances it and gives us the opportunity to help many more students,” Rick said. “Julie and I both were encouraged by our fathers to pursue education that prepared us for an actual career, so that was important for us – and important to provide that opportunity to other students.”

They followed their fathers’ advice, with Julie becoming a nurse and Rick an accountant. After starting his career with Price Waterhouse, Rick co-founded the accounting firm Bennett Thrasher with Ken Thrasher in 1980 with their stated values of serving their clients with integrity and respect, valuing their employees and making their families their top priority.

Rick’s father, William Bennett, was a procurement officer for the United States Air Force and Julie’s father, Jule Blair, owned a moving and storage business. Naming the scholarship in memory of those two influential men was an easy decision for the Bennetts.

“Both of our dads taught us that, if you work hard and do the right thing, life turns out pretty well,” Rick said. “My dad trained me to be a servant leader and to take care of people and Julie’s dad was extremely supportive when I decided to leave the big firm and start Bennett Thrasher, telling me that it was the best decision I ever made.”

The William N. Bennett and Jule Blair Memorial Scholarship will support Honors students pursuing an undergraduate degree in the School of Accountancy in Kennesaw State’s Michael J. Coles College of Business.

“The generous creation of this scholarship is just another example of Rick and Julie Bennett’s steadfast support of this University and our students,” said Steve Smalt, director of the School of Accountancy. “Their endowed scholarship will materially impact the lives of Kennesaw State students and encourage collaboration and engagement between the School of Accountancy and Honors College, benefiting both.”

Rick Bennett shares his accounting expertise and experience with Kennesaw State students by teaching an accounting course in the Master of Business Administration program. Following his retirement on January 1, 2018 after 46 years as an accountant, he began teaching the class at the request of KSU Provost Kathy Schwaig, who at the time was dean of the Coles College.

That is just one of the relationships that has helped Rick and Julie feel part of the Kennesaw State family. Rick also credited his friendships with two fellow KSU Foundation trustees – College of Business namesake Michael Coles and longtime Kennesaw State supporter Larry Stevens, who teaches the same MBA course that Rick does – with fostering the Bennetts’ connection to the University.

“I enjoy the students and I enjoy the enthusiasm at KSU,” Rick said. “I graduated from Georgia State University, but I’ve never had the relationships there that I have at KSU – from President Pam Whitten to Provost Schwaig to (Coles College) Dean (Robin) Cheramie, all the way down the line.”

The Bennetts look forward to establishing more ties to Kennesaw State through the students they will help with their scholarship fund. They also hope that other people will be inspired to donate to KSU, especially since Rick serves as the chair of the Coles College of Business’ development committee.

“Absolutely, I’m counting on my relationships with people who could be donors to step up once they see that I’m trying to lead by example,” Rick said.

– Paul Floeckher

Photo submitted

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit