Finding the Funding

The Bentley family has had a long association with the University of Michigan. Alvin M. Bentley III's parents Alvin Morell Bentley, Jr. and Helen Webb both graduated in 1916 with Bachelor of Art degrees from the College of Literature, Science and the Arts. Their only child was born on August 30, 1918, three months before his father's death in France during World War I. Alvin III also attended the University of Michigan, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1940. He earned a Master of Arts degree in history in 1963 and began work on a Ph.D. In 1965 he was asked to chair the major gifts committee of the University of Michigan's $55 Million Fund commemorating the university's sesquicentennial. Governor George Romney appointed Bentley to a vacant seat on the Board of Regents in 1966. When he died on April 10, 1969 at the age of 50, Alvin Bentley had been involved with the University of Michigan for over thirty years.

groundbreaking 2

Dr. Warner and others at the ground-
breaking of the new library.

In 1961 Dr. Warner, assistant director of the Michigan Historical Collections (MHC), contacted Congressman Bentley about donating his personal papers to the Collections. In 1962 Bentley agreed to give his papers to the Michigan Historical Collections with the first shipment arriving in January 1966.

As Congressman Bentley was a member of the major gifts committee, Dr. Clever Bald consulted with him regarding the space needs and financing of the MHC. Bentley responded on January 28, 1966:

"I am wondering if this cost has been broken down into smaller amounts in order to attract potential donors and who might be interested in placing individual memorials within the new building itself. For example, I am thinking of the cost of each of the three levels, an assembly room, for social functions and historical conferences, staff room, sorting, room, reading room, research rooms, etc. I am not sure if the total estimated cost has been broken down to the extent I suggest but, following your suggestion of contacting persons whose papers are on deposit in the Collections, you can readily see how this approach might be
(Bentley donor file)

site of the future BHL

Site of the future Bentley Historical

After his death, Mrs. Alvin (Arvella D.) Bentley began looking for a memorial to honor her husband. It seemed logical that the best way to honor her husband was a contribution to the University of Michigan. Dr. Warner, who became director of the Michigan Historical Collections in 1966, was looking for funding to build a home for the Michigan Historical Collections which had outgrown its space in the basement of the Rackham Building. Mrs. Bentley became a member of the Executive Committee of the Friends of the Michigan Historical Collections in September of 1971.

In December 1971 the Regents accepted a gift of $500,000 from Mrs. Bentley for construction of the Michigan Historical Collections building, agreed to Mrs. Bentley's stipulation that the building be named the Alvin M. and Arvella D. Bentley Historical Library, and authorized the project for construction bids. Vice-President Smith commented that "the Historical Collections has been served by a most able administrator in Robert Warner, and he was sure this splendid


The new home of the Michigan
Historical Collections, the Bentley
Historical Library.

addition to the facilities of the Collections would be accompanied by an equally significant improvement in the program of the Collections." Regent Nederlander expressed the Regents' appreciation for this additional support for the University. "The Bentley family has compiled a truly impressive record of continuing support for the University, especially in the area of history, which was one of the deep interests of the late Regent Bentley."

With this generous gift, about half the sum needed to construct the building, Dr. Warner was able to approach other prominent citizens such as, G. Mennen Williams, Roscoe Bonisteel, Floyd Starr, the families of Wilbur Brucker, Arthur Vandenberg, and Prestiss Brown, as well as foundations such as the Whiting Foundation in Flint, and organizations such as the Delta Sigma Delta honorary dental fraternity and the Grand Lodge Free and Accepted Masons of the state of Michigan about contributing to the library building fund. Their contributions are reflected in the various offices and rooms throughout the building.

groundbreaking 1

Arvella Bentley and others at the
groundbreaking of the new Bentley
Historical Library.

The groundbreaking ceremony occurred on August 2, 1972. Construction continued for about a year. In August 1973 the shelving in the stacks began to go up. The move from the basement of Rackham Building to the new facility at 1150 Beal Avenue was completed the following May.

Mrs. Bentley continued to make substantial gifts, totaling $275,000 from 1975 through 1980 to the library until her death on June 17, 1980.

Burton Tower, Baird Carillon