Former MDA President and Chairman Bob Bennett, Broadcast and MDA Love Network Pioneer
CHICAGO, Dec.1, 2016 - In response to the passing of legendary broadcast executive Robert M. Bennett, former president, chairman and emeritus member of the Muscular Dystrophy Association Board of Directors, the extended MDA family today mourns his loss. Bob was 89 and lived in Newport Beach, California, with his wife of 66 years Marjie.
Following is a statement issued by MDA Chairman of the Board R. Rodney Howell, M.D.:
“Bob Bennett was a thoughtful, gentle and extremely effective leader of MDA during the halcyon days of our Labor Day Telethon. Behind the scenes, he was a leading architect of the legendary Love Network of 200 TV stations that ignited the fight against muscular dystrophy and ALS, bringing MDA into family rooms throughout all of America.
“So much of the hopeful momentum underway in the neuromuscular disease community today is built on a foundation that Bob helped fortify – as president and chairman of our Board, as a champion for research investments and scientific advancements, and as a masterful networker. It was such an honor for those of us who had the privilege of working with Bob. He was a dear and trusted friend to many, and he will be sorely missed. His family was an extension of the MDA family and our deepest condolences go to his wife Marjie and his children.”
Bob served as president of MDA from 1995 to 2001 and was chairman of its Board from 2001 to 2005, guiding MDA during some of the most productive years in its research program. Under Bob’s leadership, MDA was involved in testing the first drug treatment ever approved for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and other breakthrough research projects that today are fueling momentum toward treatments and cures for MDA families.
Bob first became associated with MDA in 1969 when he was vice president and general manager of WNEW-TV, then the New York affiliate of the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon.
Bennett guided WCVB, a new station in 1971 when Bennett was named general manager and president, to become the country's most prolific and prestigious programmer of locally produced shows. Under his leadership, the station developed such programs as “The Muppett Show,” “The Baxters,” “Miller’s Court,” and “This Was America,” many of which were syndicated nationally. As president of WCVB-TV in Boston, he began broadcasting the MDA Telethon in 1975.
In the 1980s, was named president of Metromedia Broadcasting, which was the nation’s largest station group at the time. WCVB was spun off to the Hearst Corporation for a record-high price and the remaining Metromedia stations would form the core of the Fox Broadcasting Network. He was inducted into Broadcasting & Cable magazine’s Hall of Fame in 1984 and he received the Pioneer Award from the Broadcasters’ Foundation in 2005. Bob became an emeritus member of the MDA Board in 2014 after decades of distinguished and faithful service.
In addition to his wife Marjie, he is survived by his daughter Kelly, son Casey, and grandson Brandon.
MDA is leading the fight to free individuals — and the families who love them — from the harm of muscular dystrophy, ALS and related muscle-debilitating diseases that take away physical strength, independence and life. We use our collective strength to help kids and adults live longer and grow stronger by finding research breakthroughs across diseases; caring for individuals from day one; and empowering families with services and support in hometowns across America.
Learn how you can fund cures, find care and champion the cause at mda.org.
Muscular Dystrophy Association
Vice President — Public Relations and Community Programs