Donald R. Benning Oct. 10, 1936 – July 14, 2017
Dr. Benning was born in Omaha, Neb., the youngest of Erdie and Mary Benning’s five children. He attended Omaha North High School where he wrestled and played baseball and football before graduating in 1954.
He attended the then-Omaha University where he played football and wrestled, and upon graduation was offered a graduate fellowship in the school’s education department. He was working as director of Omaha’s Near North Side YMCA when the university in 1963 hired him as head wrestling coach — the first African-American head coach at a predominately white university in the United States. He also was the first full-time black faculty member at the school. Under his leadership, the school’s wrestling program gained national prominence and in 1970 brought the state of Nebraska its first-ever collegiate national championship. Dr. Benning was NAIA Wrestling Coach of the Year, a member of the Nebraska Scholastic Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame and a member of the 1969 U.S. Olympic Wrestling Committee. He is a member of the Omaha University Hall of Fame and the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame.
Following his coaching career, Dr. Benning went on to distinguished career in education, including nearly three decades with Omaha Public Schools. During his time as an administrator in the state’s largest school system, Dr. Benning served as an assistant principal and athletic director at Central High School, director of the Department of Human-Community Relations for OPS, and assistant superintendent. He helped lead the district’s desegregation effort and developed the nationally-recognized Adopt-a-School program. He also worked for racial equity in education including through the school district’s Minority Intern Program and Pacesetter Academy.
After leaving OPS, Dr. Benning joined the faculty at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he was the first black doctorate recipient in the university’s College of Education. At UNL, Dr. Benning was coordinator of the school’s urban education program, charged with training educators to become administrators in urban and diverse school systems. He taught at the university until his retirement in 2011.
Dr. Benning is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and a member of Kappa Alpha fraternity.
Donald R. Benning is survived by wife Marcidene (Dee) Benning, children Victoria L. Benning, Tracy L. Benning (Deb), Donald R. Benning Jr., Kymberly D. Benning, Damon G. Benning (Jennie), grandchildren Rayniece, Brandyn, Cameryn, Calvin, Caleb, Mya, Jordan, Micah, Breeanna, sister Phyllis Joseph, many nieces, family & friends.
Visitation Monday 9:00 AM till service time. Funeral Service Monday (7/24/17) 11:00 AM at St. John’s A.M.E. Church 2402 N. 22nd St. Private family interment. Family prefers Memorials to North Omaha Boys & Girls Club, Girls Inc., Butler Gast YMCA.