Greene County Associate Commissioner Roseann Bentley was honored as the 2011 Humanitarian today for her efforts over many years to help schools, address community needs, and serve as a leader in government, philanthropy and education.
She received the 22nd annual award at a luncheon today at Doubletree Hotel in Springfield. The award was presented by CFO Chair Cliff Brown and its founder, Jewell Thompson Schweitzer, a longtime supporter of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks who wanted to honor individuals who place service to others as the primary motivating force in their lives.
“I am so lucky to have grown up in a wonderful time during the Greatest Generation,” Mrs. Bentley said in acknowledging the luncheon was taking place on the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. “My parents gave us a fabulous childhood. It was very important to them that we give back to our community.”
The Junior League of Springfield nominated Mrs. Bentley for the award; she served as the League’s first president in 1976-77. Current President Brooke O’Reilly said that while she has worked with Roseann Bentley in a number of roles, she’s been most inspired by seeing her interact with her family at the church they both attend.
“As a mother and a community volunteer, I cannot express enough the impact that has had on me,” O’Reilly said.
Surrounded by about 200 friends and family members upon accepting the award, Mrs. Bentley said she will equally divide the $3,000 cash award given to the Humanitarian honoree between the Child Advocacy Center and the Court-Appointed Special Advocates-CASA of Southwest Missouri.
She said she chose those two agencies because of the decline in government support for those services, coupled with the increase in the number of local children in foster care and the fact that Greene County has one of the highest rates of child abuse among all Missouri counties.
The nomination cited accomplishments including being the first woman to win a seat on the Springfield Board of Education and also to represent southwest Missouri in the State Senate, where she served eight years, including chairing the Senate Education Committee. Her achievements in the Senate included sponsoring a bill to use money from gaming boats for early childhood programs.
In addition to her local school board service, she also served as president of the State Board of Education and President of the National Association of State Boards of Education. She has been a board member for a number of national organizations including Parents As Teachers and the Child Welfare League of America.
She was a founding member of Ozarks Public Television and Female Leaders in Philanthropy. She is a prior Chair for the United Way of the Ozarks and helped start the first “Day of Caring” after she and Springfield educator Karen Sweeney attended a conference in Dallas and brought the idea back to Springfield where the annual day is the largest in the nation in participation.
She also is a former Chair of the CFO’s Board of Directors, having served on the board from 1980-85 and on grants committees for a number of years.
Her previous honors include the 2004 recipient of the Pioneer in Education Award of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education; the 2003 Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce Springfieldian Award recipient; Association of Junior Leagues International Mary Harriman Award recipient; and Junior League of Springfield Lifetime Achievement Award recipient for 2002.
She was first elected to represent Greene County’s Eastern District in 2004.
Mrs. Bentley is married to Dr. John Bentley, who received the Humanitarian Award in 2002. They have four children: Jeff, Melissa, Chris, and Jonathan; and 11 grandchildren.
The Humanitarian is selected annually by a committee organized by the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, which was chaired this year by John Wilson, and included: Jennifer Kennally, United Way of the Ozarks; Morey Mechlin, Care to Learn; Michael Overton, First Baptist Church; Clif Smart, Missouri State University; Dr. Robert Spence, Evangel University; and Mark Struckhoff, Council of Churches of the Ozarks.