Bob Bentley

Robert D. Bentley passed away at his home in Mexico, October 4, 2021 at the age of 88.

Kim Bentley:

Bob was born in Prairie City, Oregon spending a large part of his childhood bouncing around in his Dads old pick up hunting agates. HIs teen years were split between Eastern Oregon and Portland.

At college he began as an OSU math major. Then the geology bug bit and he finished a Masters in Geology, moving on to Columbia for his Phd. He took several university teaching positions but settled in Ellensburg.

Bob, or Sweet Old Bob as he was affectionately known by many of his students, was a Geology professor at CWU for decades. He loved geology, teaching, being with interested students, field work, and basalt.

After retirement Bob made the decision to make his permanent home in Todos Santos, Mexico. Until then it had become his vacation place.

He discovered early on that rock was cheap and began to buy truck loads of huge rocks. Dr. Bentley built walls, patios, rooms, and then when he retired, turned the now enormous place into a small hotel.

It was his creation and the only place he wanted to be. It is where he stayed until the end of his life.

His surviving family is his wife Kim Bentley, Daughter Laura Harris, Grand daughter Tarah Bentley, step children Joe, Teri, Tony and Mike West.

Bob was one of a kind. He is missed.

M Meghan Miller:

Dr. Robert D. Bentley served as a Professor of Geology at Central Washington University from 1969 to 1997, having earned his Ph.D. at Columbia University in 1969 with a focus on igneous petrology. Doc Bentley was passionate about geology and he inspired generations of students in the classroom, laboratory, and especially in the field.

His research contributions spanned the Alabama Piedmont to the Beartooth Mountains of Montana. His noteworthy work on the stratigraphy of the Columbia River Basalt flows created the tools to decipher their eruptive history and the structural evolution of of the Columbia River Plateau, including seminal contributions to early understanding of the Yakima Fold and Thrust Belt.

In addition, he led a winter field course in the Mojave Desert of California over several decades. Relentless in his pursuit of understanding, he also asked much of his students. As a result, Doc inspired their thirst for understanding, and transformed the lives of many CWU students in the geological sciences.

Among them, he was also known to be quite a character. With a stalk of grass in his teeth, and an old straw hat clamped onto his head, he memorably held forth on the nature and history of the geology at hand.

He was awarded the Central Washington University Distinguished Research Award in 1981, for his noted expertise in igneous petrology and Pacific Northwest geology.

Rememberances from Alumni

Bob definitely left a mark. Who can forget his dog Panda – the very large black poodle? Doc would get so mad on outings when we would throw a rock in to the bushes. Panda would be on that bush so fast looking to flush out the vermin that had so obviously rustled the bush. Doc’s face would turn red and he’d yell “who’s trying to make my dog look stupid?!”. It was always a bit of a game with Doc in the field, class or in the lab. He rarely held back what he was thinking – for better or worse. But I think that is what always drew me to him.

Will Blanton, '97

A memory of Dr. Bentley (SOB -sweet old Bob): We were examining a faulted outcrop (Vantage SS?) when we broke for lunch. Doc opened a can of kippered snacks (nastiest canned fish product imaginable). He commenced eating the contents of the can (ugh) and was finishing off the liquid (double-ugh), some of which was running into his beard (you gotta luv him), when he looked down and noticed a rattle snake by his boot. Without uttering a sound he stomped the snake into submission, spilling nary a drop of the kippered snack remnants. Now that is my idea of a true field geologist! RIP Doc . . .

Randall Reneau, '73

Doc brought geology alive, boots on the ground, rocks in hand. Our weekly “field methods” classes were spent scrambling across the basalts all over Kittitas valley. Loved our field trips to Death Valley NP and Joshua Tree NM. Wild adventures, to say the least. The scanned in slides aren’t the best …. but tell the story. Circa 1974

Joshua Tree
Death Valley
Gerlach, NV

Carrie Gordon, '77

Doc Bentley was the department chair when I was at Central 1973-1977 and is responsible for my interest in geology and for my commitment to geology as a major. As I fondly remember, early on in my geology classes he urged me to either “Sh*t or get off the pot” (his words!) and elect geology as my major. I had begun as a chemistry/business admin. major and needed an additional science to meet my graduation requirements when I first encountered Doc. Part of that initial class were several “mandatory” field trips. One trip was to the Columbia Gorge where we assisted him in counting phenocrysts of plagioclase in basalt columns to sort out which flow as which as he sought to unravel the stratigraphy of the Columbia River Basalts. My thought at the time was, How can anyone get excited about doing this kind of work?, but I greatly enjoyed the field trips and the outdoors adventures. Doc Bentley then displayed our field trip data later in the classroom and showed how our work, his own, and those of previous classes had helped him to track the areal extent of an individual flow, estimate the volume of lava erupted, and the structural geology of the broader Columbia River plateau. Several other field trips occurred over the course of my time at Central, always with Doc Bentley leading the students through the sage and boulders to that “key” outcrop where he would enlighten us with his keen observations and why they added to the story of the earth’s processes.

He was demanding in the classroom, particularly as I recall in Structural Geology. However, he also had the gift of patience with his students who needed help in fully understanding the topic and would always have time to spend individually with them to work through the problems. Doc’s “old-school” Field Methods course was one of my favorites and was truly the foundation of much of the work continued during the next 45 years of my career in Economic Geology. Doc Bentley’s contribution to what was then the Spring Field course which he then handed off to the three other professors at the time, Dr. Don Ringe (Poletta Folds), Dr. Steven Farkas (Calico Hills), and Dr. Ralph Higgins (West End Wash).

Doc Bentley also managed to find me my first job through a referral from a previous student from his faculty time in the State of Georgia. It was a challenging time for newly graduated students in 1977, but, with Doc Bentley’s recommendation, I landed the job and found myself in the wilds of Alaska conducting mineral exploration for the next three years (a geologic field trip every day!).

Robert Bentley was indeed an extraordinary educator and his zeal for the science of geology and his inquisitiveness live on within his many students. I thought of him often during my career and owe, in no small extent, my success in Economic Geology, to the foundation he and his colleagues laid for me during my time at Central Washington.

Rest in peace.

Bill Stanley, '77

I have very fond memories of all the field related experiences, and that Bob instilled as the best way to learn about geology and geologic structures. Thinking of the fond memories of the Big Maria Mountains, Wenatchee field work, and of course Basalt mapping madness in the Central Washington region. Recalling working in the wee hours of the morning studying thin sections in Lind Hall and can still hear Doc describing a particular mineral association by clamoring… “it’s the pinks and greens, pinks and greens!”

To Bob’s family, I wish you all peace. Bob, may the great Amphibolite protect you in heaven, as you are surely there! Toasting your memory

Steve Heacock, '84