Mary Clayton Bentley Award
Retired UD development officer and University Archivist and Director of Records Management, John M. Clayton, Jr., fondly remembers Mary Clayton Bentley and why he and his wife honored her with this award, “Mary Clayton Bentley was a favorite aunt of mine. She was born on the family farm near West Grove, PA in 1905 and died in 1991 at Christiana Hospital. At the time of her death, my wife, Norma, and I decided to memorialize her with the Mary Clayton Bentley Award at UD. We made that decision for several reasons.
Aunt Mary was born before the establishment of the cumpulsory education law in PA. She was very bright and had to cry for a week to be able to go to high school. She took the business course and worked for a number of years prior to her marriage at the Denney Tag Company in West Chester, PA. She worked her way up to being the head of Denney Tag's accounting department and I have a glowing recommendation written by her supervisor at the time she left to set up housekeeping. In those days, women could not work if they were married.
She married Norman N. Bentley, a farmer, whose family farm was near Lincoln University, PA. She saved her money so that she could pay cash for the furniture in their house. This was during the Great Depression and the bank in which Aunt Mary had her money saved went up and she lost everything. She and Uncle Norman were married in June, 1932 but were married secretly so that she could keep her job and save again for their furniture. In 1937 she had enough saved and they announced their marriage and began housekeeping at Lincoln University.
While she was living in West Chester, she took night classes through the West Chester schools. She took several cooking classes and some in nutrition. When they started housekeeping, she told Uncle Norman that she could provide thrifty, healthy, and nutritious meals but that he would have to promise to eat what she put before him. Years later I remember his saying "why did I ever say that I would eat carrots?"!!! She prided herself on serving a balanced diet--which was unusual at that time. She was a wonderful cook who made fabulous fried chicken, wonderful cakes and pies, as treats--but her table was loaded with meats, salads, fruits and vegetables--you had to eat the nutritious stuff before you got the goodies!
She was one who believed in rewarding people for their doing a good job. I was always rewarded for good grades and as a special treat she'd take me into Philadelphia to see the sights and to hear the Wanamaker Organ.
When we decided to create the Mary Clayton Bentley Award, we decided that because of her interest in nutrition and because she liked to reward people for good performance that we would have the award given to the top undergraduate student in nutrition and dietetics at UD. It's a reward given to a graduating senior; I know that some of the recipients have used the money for travel or toward their graduate education. Through the award, she is still rewarding people for their good performance. I know that the initial investment is growing so that as the years go by, the award will become increasingly larger--and this is my desire. Don't divide it between two or more students as there are more funds available---it's the reward for the top student.”