SJSU Journalism Prof. Dies at 103

Dwight Bentel, South Bay journalism legend, dies in Saratoga at the age of 103.

By Lisa Fernandez
|  Wednesday, May 16, 2012  |  Updated 3:33 PM PDT
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SJSU Journalism Prof. Dies at 103

Dona Nichols, who works at SJSU and NBC Bay Area, pictured with Dwight Bentel, who died at the age of 103.

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In a touch of symbolic irony, the Spartan Daily's home page is dedicated to the death of Dwight Bentel, the San Jose State University newspaper's founder, who died Wednesday at the age of 103.

Bentel started the Spartan Daily in 1934, and founded the university's School of Journalism and Mass Communications. When he turned 100, the university held a huge bash, titled, "A Night for Dwight, 100 years in Black and White."

Colleagues and friends said that Bentel always taught reporters that truth was the best defense, sent young journalists back to ask more questions, demanded accuracy and championed freedom of the press.

Once, Bentel told an SJSU dean to "stick to deaning," the Mercury News reported, when the administrator tried to block a story about the school football team breaking into a girls' locker room.

Before coming to SJSU, Bentel worked at the now-defunct San Jose Mercury News Herald, where in the 1920s, he wrote stories about Prohibition. Bentel said his editor handed him a gun instead of a notebook  when he was writing a story about chasing bootleggers out of town.

Bentel spent 40 years at SJSU, and earned "teacher of the year" once during that time. He was a member of the Pulitzer Prize award committee, wrote a column for Editor & Publisher and authored two books. Bentel also worked for the Associated Press and the San Francisco Call-Bulletin.

He is predeceased by his wife, Genieva Record Bentel, his brother, Rear Admiral Carr Bentel, who also lived to be 103. He is survived by a son, David, of Monterey, a granddaughter and a great granddaughter.

Services are pending. Memorial donations may be made to the Dwight Bentel First Amendment Champions Fund, San Jose State University Tower Foundation, One Washington Square, San Jose, CA 95192, or through www.sjsu.edu/giving/.

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