When the young George R. Bent II ’52 filled out his application to Oberlin College, he answered the question about whether he had Oberlin graduates in his family by filling in several names. As he ran out of space on the form—his parents and his siblings, along with aunts, uncles, and cousins, had graduated Oberlin before him—he wrote that there were many more, noting that “Oberlin is in the blood of the family.”
What he didn’t write, but which he proved with a lifetime of service to his alma mater, was that Oberlin was as much in his heart as in his blood.
A member of Oberlin’s Class of 1952, Mr. Bent died Tuesday, September 17, at age 85 in Oberlin.
“George Bent exemplified the best of Oberlin through his dedication to our values, and through the outstanding service and leadership he provided to our board of trustees and our campaigns,” says Oberlin College president Marvin Krislov. “Throughout his life, George worked tirelessly to make our college, our community, and our world better places for everyone.”
Mr. Bent served Oberlin as a member of the Board of Trustees from 1973 until 2003, when he became an honorary trustee. He chaired the board from 1987 to 1992, during which time he also chaired the Campaign for Oberlin.
“George Bent was an outstanding chair of Oberlin’s board, says current trustee Karen Gebhardt Flint ’64. “He was the ultimate gentleman with an unflappable demeanor. He had a wonderful dry sense of humor and never seemed perturbed by any crisis situation. He chaired a very successful campaign for Oberlin during his time on the board and was always very supportive of Oberlin in every way possible. His wisdom was integral in helping the board make important decisions. We all grew accustomed to having him as a "back-bencher trustee" after he retired from the board. He will be greatly missed.”
Mr. Bent also served as an admissions rep, as a president of his class, and on his 50th Reunion Gift Committee. A generous donor, he supported many Oberlin causes, including the Eleanor Hopkins Bent Memorial Fund, established in memory of his mother, and the Walter and Emma Schoeni Conservatory Library Fund. His tremendous contributions were recognized when he received the Alumni Medal, the Alumni Association’s highest honor, in 1991.
Mr. Bent was born March 5, 1928, in Berea, Kentucky, to George Bent ’20 and Eleanor Hopkins Bent ’22. After graduating from high school but before enrolling at Oberlin, he worked with the Quaker Relief Service in Europe, primarily in Hungary. The year that he spent with the Quaker team, 1947, was a life-changing experience for him, and the year that the Quakers received the Nobel Peace Prize for their relief work in Europe.
He wrote in his application to Oberlin that his experiences there, in the immediate aftermath of World War II, prompted him to apply to colleges that prepared their students to take their “place in the world of today prepared to assist in gaining that freedom from fear which haunts the lives of millions the world over.”
After Oberlin, he earned a Master of Public Affairs degree at Princeton, preparing for a career in foreign service. “However, the activities of Senator Joe McCarthy cooled my interest,” he told the Kendalight, the newsletter of the Kendal at Oberlin community, in 2007. He worked instead for CARE from 1954 to 1958, holding appointments in Korea and Austria.
In 1958, he married Conservatory of Music graduate Ruth Schoeni ’52. The young couple decided to start their married life in the United States, he told the Kendalight, and he began a career in business.
Mr. Bent joined the management team of the Pfaudler Company in New York, becoming president of the Pfaudler Division of Sybron Corporation. He and his family moved to Ohio in 1980, when he was named general manger of Nordson Corporation’s robotics division. In 1982 he became president of the Ceilcote Company, a unit of General Signal Corporation, the position from which he ultimately retired.
In addition to his service to Oberlin College, Mr. Bent was instrumental in the development of Kendal at Oberlin. He joined The Kendal Corporation board in 1995 in the Kendal at Oberlin seat, and also served on the Kendal at Lexington board, beginning in 1997. He became a leader in the continuing care retirement community profession, receiving national recognition in 2000, when the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging named him Trustee of the Year.
Kendal at Oberlin chief operating officer Barbara Thomas describes him as a “giant,” noting that his “wisdom, wit, and warmth” were critical not only to launching Kendal at Oberlin, but also to creating the synergy between Kendal and Oberlin College that is, 21 years later, still going strong.
George Bent is survived by his wife, Ruth; their son, George R. Bent III ’85, daughter-in-law Lorri Olan ’87; three grandchildren; and his brother, Wilson ’48.
A memorial service will be held at Kendal at Oberlin on Saturday, October 19, 2013, at 2 p.m.
Memorial contributions may be made to Oberlin College, 50 W. Lorain St., Oberlin, OH 44074; Kendal at Oberlin, 600 Kendal Dr., Oberlin, OH 44074; Community Foundation of Lorain County, 9080 Leavitt Rd., Elyria, OH 44035; or American Friends Service Committee, 1501 Cherry St., Philadelphia, PA 19102-1403.
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