Etcetera - 07/06/12

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Walla Walla native Dwight Esthler Bentel, Willow Glen, Calif., was credited with founding San Jose State University's journalism program. He died May 16 at 103, according to an obituary in the San Jose Mercury News.

Dwight was born April 15, 1909 in Walla Walla to Joseph and Kate Bentel, both educators. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees at Stanford University and a doctorate from Columbia University in 1950.

During his career, he worked at the San Jose Mercury Herald, The Associated Press and the San Francisco Call Bulletin.

In 1934 T.W. MacQuarrie, president of what was then San Jose State Teachers College, hired the 25-year-old Dwight to start a journalism program.

"He took the charge seriously, taking over the State College Times and turning it into the Spartan Daily, the first daily paper published by a California state college."

He chaired the department until 1967 and taught until 1974. Under his watch, "the program grew to encompass photojournalism, radio and television, in addition to newspaper reporting and editing."

He used personal anecdotes as teaching tools in his lectures, Mary Gottschalk reported in the newspaper obituary about him.

He most often repeated a tale about a sports editor sent to cover a Spartan football game in Honolulu. He was there on Dec. 7, 1941, but filed nothing on the infamous Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

"He later told colleagues that he thought they knew the football game was canceled. Decades later it still rankled Dwight that the student hadn't covered the story as any good journalist would.

Dwight believed strongly that the press should be free, which is why he insisted the Spartan Daily Advertisement be free, and that budgets were to be ignored in the interest of breaking news.

Donations in his memory may be made to the Dwight Bentel First Amendment Champions Fund, San Jose State University Tower Foundation, One Washington Square, San Jose, CA 95192-0257.

His wife Genieva Bentel died in 2004. Survivors include son David of Monterey; granddaughter Christina Bentel-Martinic of Oakland; and great-granddaughter Carolina.

Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at annieeveland@wwub.com or 526-8313.

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