The Civil Service Council will feature a civil service employee at Illinois State University each month to highlight an exceptional colleague and the outstanding work being done on campus! This month get a chance to learn about and applaud Dave Bentlin of the Office of the President.
What is your position on campus and how long have you been with the University?
I am the administrative assistant to Dr. Dietz in the President’s Office. I have been a staff member at ISU for (gulp) 35 years. Before my present position I held similar positions in Student Affairs and University Advancement and before that I was support staff for two grant projects in the College of Education (COE). In the COE I worked with Dr. Maribeth Lartz and the legendary Lanny Morreau. Their grant projects—working to increase the number of minorities in the Special Education field—made such a difference and the work was personally rewarding. My first job at ISU was in what was then called Media Services where I answered phones and typed on (yes) a manual typewriter. I can honestly say that I’ve enjoyed every job I’ve had at ISU but my current one can’t be beat. I feel very fortunate.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
The people. I’ve often said that work is work…but it feels much less so when you have the opportunity to work with great people. President Dietz and my previous bosses, especially Susan Kern and Steve Adams, have at various times encouraged me, mentored me, and created opportunities that helped me to be a better employee and I believe a better person. I have also worked with some truly fabulous people—there is not enough space to list them all but I believe they know who they are.
What are your hobbies or favorite pastime?
Well, before the pandemic my favorite pastime was getting my Marcus Theatres popcorn bucket refilled and catching a film. I enjoy the solitude of a darkened theater that allows me to focus solely on the film; it is a relaxing escape from technology and other interruptions that can distract me from streaming films at home. The theaters have reopened but I’ll wait a while before resuming that activity.
A great deal of my free time is spent volunteering with the Prairie Pride Coalition, our local LGBTQI+ community organization. Our work includes social events; awareness and educational activities; outreach to our LGBTQI+ community and its allies; legislative advocacy; and just about anything that we think will help make Bloomington/Normal a safer, equitable, and more welcoming environment for the members of the LGBTQI+ community who live, work, and visit here.
I also spend free time as a member of the selection committee for the ISU LGBTQ+ Student Support Endowed Fund. This fund was established to assist ISU LGBTQI+ students who have been abandoned by their families because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. The fund helps these students stay in school and continue their pursuit of a degree. Some might be surprised to learn that these situations still occur; sadly, they do and in fact the number of applicants to the fund has increased significantly in the past couple of years. Anyone can donate to the fund at https://giving.illinoisstate.edu/fund/lgbtq-plus-student-support-endowment/.
What else would you like others to know about you or your time at ISU?
There was a period of about six months in the late 1990s when I left ISU for a job at State Farm. I was at a point in my life where I wanted to try something new. New is not a bad thing but I soon discovered I was not a good fit with the corporate culture. That short time away from campus gave me a fresh perspective and a greater appreciation for the opportunities available at ISU. In addition, I consider working at an institution of higher education to be a privilege and an opportunity to assist today’s students to become the generation that can make our world a better, more equitable, and socially just one.
If you would like to share with us, please tell us how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected your work at ISU?
Like so many others, Zoom has become my sometimes-cantankerous partner in crime. The conference room in our office is mostly unused and instead we recreate Hollywood Squares and the Brady Bunch on our computer screens. The technology has saved us, but I really miss the face-to-face interaction with colleagues. And, I can’t wait until we can ditch these face coverings as I really enjoy seeing smiles on people’s faces.
On a more positive note, the pandemic has challenged so many of us to work in new ways and learn different procedures to accomplish the work. Challenges that force us to pivot oftentimes can produce solutions that we might not have thought of had our regular workflow not been interrupted by COVID-19. I am a person that thrives on a routine, but this pandemic has reminded me that changes and adjustments are a part of life and not necessarily a bad thing.
More about Dave from Larry Dietz, president of Illinois State University:
I have known Dave Bentlin since I came to the University in June of 2011 as the new vice-president for Student Affairs. He was serving as the administrative assistant and reported directly to me. I learned very quickly that Dave was competent in his role but also had the respect and admiration for his work across the campus, his network of colleagues, and his work outside of his position in the office and in the community.
When I became president in March of 2014, there was a vacancy in the office. Dave applied and I was fortunate to be able to hire him to work with me. He has always been an eager volunteer, serving on many committees and advocating for and serving as spokesperson for the LGBTQ communities. He has also been our unofficial historian for many other units of the University having served in many departments including as an assistant for a former vice-president for Advancement. He has received numerous honors and awards from the University and from community groups including the David A. Strand Diversity Achievement Award. On a personal level, Dave is generous with his time, takes initiative to begin and follow through projects to their end, has great customer service skills, and is the consummate professional. He is a trusted colleague, warm, caring, dedicated, and humble. He takes on complex tasks and makes the accomplishment of those tasks seem easy. He is unflappable and always supportive. I value Dave personally and professionally and am delighted that he has been chosen to be in the Spotlight.