Bentley: "I graduated from Fresno State in 1969 with a major in plant science and a minor in biology. Actually, my focus became entomology under the guidance of Dr. Don Burdick in the Biology Department. Most of my electives were in entomology and zoology. I was raised on a stone fruit and nut farm (walnut, cherry, and peach) in the small town of Linden, California."
What made you join Alpha Zeta? Are you from the Central Valley? Have you always had a passion for agriculture?
Bentley: "There were two reasons that I joined the California Epsilon Chapter. First, this sounds selfish, I thought my membership would aid me later in life. However, I was very intrigued by a guiding principle of the fraternity. That principle was to serve others. My professional career, as an entomologist, was dedicated to that second point. I was employed by UC Cooperative Extension as an entomologist where I served for 35 years providing extension education and research for California farmers and the general public."
Since graduation, what have you been up to? Do you have a small business? Are you working for a Valley business or corporation?
Bentley: "After graduation from Fresno State and serving in the U.S. Army (1970-1972), I continued graduate studies at Colorado State University with a major in Agricultural Entomology. I spent 4 years working in western Colorado and then came to California to work with UC Cooperative Extension. My professional career was extremely rewarding. I was honored to work and serve a wonderful group of peers. I retired from Cooperative Extension in 2012. Since that time my wife Sharon and I have traveled throughout the world and I have spent many days fishing across the United States. I have also done volunteer work in agriculture in the Philippines, Kosovo, and Guatemala."
What is your advice to students approaching graduation? How can they prepare for life outside of college?
Bentley: "I hesitate to give advice but there are a couple of things that I have found to be important when one reflects. First, develop detailed expertise in your area of study. This can be gained through your studies but, more often, is gained through your experience. Don't be discouraged by thinking there is too much to learn. It does take time but time goes by quickly. Be curious about things in your discipline that you don't yet know well. Second, learn to speak in public. I found that Alpha Zeta helped me in this respect. I also am a strong believer in Toastmasters, an international speaking organization. Join it if you can. Good communication skills are a key to success whether you farm or are in an allied field. Trust me. Finally, look to enjoy and value your comrades as members of a team."
What are some of the things you learned or gained in Alpha Zeta that helped you make it to where you are today?
Bentley: "Alpha Zeta helped me in the last two points that I mentioned above. But, as a member, it brought me closer to the faculty. People Like Dr. Karle, Dr. Hewitt, Dr. Burdick, Dr. Woodwick, and Dr. Ishimoto had a great bearing on my life. Alpha Zeta allowed me to become more involved with them and learn from them."
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Thank you for your time and for your wonderful insight and advice, Walter. We have a lot to learn from you! Congratulations on all your amazing accomplishments.
Stay tuned for more alumni highlights!