By Andrew Faught
After more than 30 years as a successful business executive, R. William “Bill” Bennett Jr. ’78 was struck by an intriguing question: “If I were given a week to live, how would I feel about my life?”
At the time, he was a division president for FranklinCovey, the Utah-based management firm cofounded by Stephen R. Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. “It just hit me all of a sudden: I think I would be miserable if I never tried writing.”
Bennett, a government and law graduate, set out to do more than weave a readable yarn.
“I think the world would solve a number of its problems with a little more tolerance, extending a little more understanding, and being a bit more forthcoming with forgiveness,” he says.
He quit his job in 2009 and with wife Loree’s blessing bellied up to his computer. His first novel, The Christmas Gift, with 15,000 copies in print, has been acquired for film. His second book, Jacob T. Marley, was the number one fiction title for its publisher during the 2011 Christmas season.
Bennett has received hundreds of letters from readers.
“Many express that they have suffered years with anger toward someone and they were able to let go after reading my book, to forgive when no apology was offered, to reach out to someone and build a bridge across years of mistrust,” he says. “People are capable of exerting so much good on the rest of the human race, in such simple forms of caring, and I feel I am achieving my mission when they say my work touched them and moved them to action.”
He credits a pair of faculty members—Paul Pfretzschner, former professor of government and law, and Donald McCluskey, late associate professor emeritus of English—as critical in inspiring and encouraging his writing aspirations.
“They taught me a tremendous amount about analyzing things and finding different perspectives,” Bennett says. “I was asked to draw out my really deep feelings and find a way to capture them on the page. It was so inspiring to me and gave me so much direction with my writing.”
Bennett is at work on his third book, Blind Island, an allegorical novel about faith. He also does public speaking on the themes in his books, as well as business execution consulting for FranklinCovey. He dwells on the positive in all of his endeavors.
“My experience has been that many of the people we work with whom we brand as ‘low performers’ or ‘resistant to change’ have tremendous potential,” he says. “It is their responsibility to step up, but we can create the conditions that dramatically increase the odds it will happen, raising morale as a strong by-product.”