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Grateful alumnus creates endowed professorship in Wes Bentz's name
12/16/16

Prof. Wes Bentz is congratulated by President Mark Zupan

Prof. Wes Bentz is congratulated by President Mark Zupan

Dr. Wesley Bentz, emeritus professor of chemistry at Alfred University, is memorable, inside the classroom and out, for his care and concern for others, whether he was teaching the principles of  basic chemistry, or responding to a fire or ambulance call as a member of the A.E. Crandall Hook and Ladder Co. in Alfred.

            Now, his concern for one of his former students, the late Dr. Frank Goetz, a 1971 alumnus of Alfred University, has led to an endowed professorship in Wes Bentz’s name.

            Mark Zupan, president of Alfred University, announced the honor at the University’s annual holiday party attended by faculty and staff. Bentz’s name comes up often when he talks with alumni, who recall his commitment to students and the community.

            In keeping with the holiday season, Zupan noted this year marked the 70th anniversary of the film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The “enduring nature of the film,” he said, arises from its major themes: “Never underestimate the influence an individual can have on a community,” and “wealth is judged by the friendships we have.” In those respects, he said, Alfred University is very wealthy, indeed, because of people like Wes Bentz.

            Accepting the award from Zupan, Bentz said simply, “I love this place and everybody who works here,” but then, unable to resist a plug for one of his favorite community charities, reminded people to turn in their 2016 Charities Drive pledges by the end of the calendar year so that the fundraising goal could once again be met.  

             Bentz began teaching chemistry at Alfred University in 1970, so Goetz was one of his first students. Even though Bentz “retired” in 2007 after 37 years and was awarded emeritus status at that time, he continues to teach in the department on an as-needed basis. Along the way, he amassed a near-record number of Excellence in Teaching Awards (faculty are eligible to receive it on an every-other-year basis) and was named a Kruson Distinguished Professor in May 2005.

            Bentz chaired the University Faculty Council and was a member of the Advisory Committee for the Health Professions. He also chaired the Chemistry Department.

            Active professionally in the Corning Section of the American Chemical Society, including as chair and a member of its executive committee, Bentz received the Sullivan Award for his contributions to the profession and the Corning Section.  

            It is not at all unusual to see Bentz bicycling around the village in his A.E. Crandall Hook and Ladder Co. coat, responding to an ambulance or fire call. He has been a driving force in the Alfred Community Chest, raising money for local charities, and serving as spokesperson for the area United Way agencies. For more than a decade, he coordinated the Alfred University blood drives for the American Red Cross; has been a member of the fire department and rescue squad for more than 40 years; and served as a member of the Allegany County Hazardous Materials Response Team.

            Goetz, who died in July, was the son of a German immigrant. An outstanding student, he earned his B.A. degree in chemistry from Alfred University; a master’s from Marquette University and his Ph.D. degree from the University of Delaware. Following a postdoctoral assignment at Edwards Air Force Base, Goetz went on to a distinguished career as a  scientist with expertise in the field of rocket propulsion, working for such distinguished companies as Thiokol and Aerojet.

            The Wes Benz Professorship in Chemistry is the 19th endowed professorship at Alfred University. Endowing a professorship at Alfred University requires a gift of at least $1.5 million.