Amherst Magazine

Derickson W. Bennett ’52

Derickson W. Bennett ’52 died December 15, 2009.
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Derickson W. Bennett ’52 carried his sense of humor, love of sports and concern for the natural world away from Amherst into the whole of his life. When he died on Dec. 15, 2009, Jeff Tittel, director of the Sierra Club New Jersey chapter, said of Dery: “He was a great environmentalist and a great human being.”

            At Amherst, Dery was captain of the basketball team (he played as a professional after college) and earned letters in cross-country, indoor track and lacrosse. He was a geology major and member of Chi Psi, where he was notorious for mocking supposedly serious initiation rites. His brothers recall even then an underlying seriousness of purpose. After graduation, he served as a frogman in the U.S. Navy.

            For 41 years, Dery lived on the New Jersey coast. A birder and surf fisherman, he was most notably an ardent and effective environmentalist. For 35 years, he was executive director of the American Littoral Society and was instrumental in the passage of New Jersey’s excellent 1970 Wetlands Act and the Coastal Area Facility Review Act regulating coastal development. A leading environmental lawyer regards this as a major achievement, as the New Jersey laws are influencing legislation in other states struggling to preserve the wetlands of our troubled coasts. Dery co-founded Clean Ocean Action and served as its president. Its director said of Dery’s method of persuasion, “Bennett would always find the light side and that was a remarkable skill that kept moving campaigns forward.” The action’s work opposing ocean dumping was a precursor to the Clean Water Act. He was also a supporter of keeping beaches open to the public.

            It is not hard to imagine Dery as an inspiring mentor to young enthusiasts in the environmental movement. Dery is survived by his wife, Barbara; two daughters, Melanie and Becca; and three grandchildren, to whom we extend our hearty condolences.

—Bill McFeely ’52

 

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