Sam Bentley Named Sternberg Professor
The Roger Hadfield Ogden Honors College has selected LSU Geology Professor Sam Bentley for the Erich and Lea Sternberg Honors Professorship. Established in 1996, the professorship is the highest award conferred to faculty by the Ogden Honors College. Bentley also holds the Billy and Ann Harrison Chair in Sedimentary Geology in the Department of Geology & Geophysics.
“It’s a huge honor to be selected as the Sternberg Professor,” Bentley said. “Receiving an award that has such honorable credentials associated with it is humbling.”
“Sam Bentley has mentored and nurtured many Honors students in his time at LSU, and he’s been an invaluable member of our faculty board,” said Jonathan Earle, dean of the Ogden Honors College. “Some of the undergraduate honors theses he’s directed have been published in important journals. Furthermore, his work as a marine sedimentologist also has important ramifications for our state and region – I’m thrilled more of our students will get a chance to work closely with him.”
“Sam Bentley is an outstanding researcher and educator, and most deserving of this distinguished honor,” said Cynthia Peterson, dean of the LSU College of Science. “His research has given us a greater understanding and appreciation of the Mississippi River Delta, and his commitment to his students and their success is remarkable.”
The award is made possible by the generosity of the late Mrs. Lea Sternberg, a longtime supporter of the Ogden Honors College. Mrs. Sternberg established the award to honor the memory of her husband, Erich Sternberg, and to reflect her respect and support for the mission of the Ogden Honors College.
Recipients of the professorship are required to have outstanding academic credentials and qualifications; an excellent teaching record; impeccable moral and ethical character; and to promote trustworthiness, leadership, patriotism, and racial and religious tolerance. In addition, the Sternberg Professor participates in teaching and the general life of the Ogden Honors College during the tenure of the award.
“In addition to the great honor of holding the professorship this year, I look forward to exploring how my colleagues and I can expand the role of the Honors College in coastal and geoscience education, and undergraduate research in these fields, at LSU,” Bentley said.
A leading figure in Mississippi Delta conservation and restoration, Bentley serves as the director of the LSU Coastal Studies Institute (CSI)—an interdisciplinary organization that fosters collaborative coastal science and engineering research. His research focuses on the physical evolution of the Mississippi River Delta and the coupled evolution of human communities and landscapes of the Mississippi River Delta.
“For example, humans built levees and dams to make the delta and river valleys more safe from floods,” Bentley said. “This had the impact of reducing sediment supply to the delta, which has driven catastrophic land loss and apparently driven community outmigration… One impact of population change in Louisiana has been the loss of a congressional seat and one electoral vote after the 2010 census.”
“We are studying the root causes of land loss and outmigration with the hope that we can reverse, or at least stabilize, these trends if we understand them better,” Bentley continued.
Another major aspect of Bentley’s work is his effort to establish LSU as the global center for deltaic studies. “LSU has the potential to be the worldwide leading institution in deltaic science, both physical and social,” Bentley said. “One of my goals as director of CSI, and in my other capacities and collaborations at LSU, is to help make that happen.”
As part of the professorship, Bentley will give a lecture in the spring semester. He plans to talk about the geological changes of the Mississippi River Delta, and why it has national and international value.
In addition to being a member of the Honors Board, Bentley has worked with Honors students on a number of Honors theses, all of which have yielded a published article.
“Being part of Dr. Bentley’s research team is a great honor and privilege,” said Suyapa Gonzalez Rodriguez, who is currently finishing her Honors thesis under Bentley’s guidance. “Dr. Bentley is a professor who fights for his students and encourages them to pursue their dreams and career aspirations…he is like a father figure to many of us in the lab. Doing a research thesis with Dr. Bentley has given me the opportunity to grow as a geologist. His guidance and all the knowledge that he brings to the table keeps me inspired and motivated to become a better geologist.”
Our Honors students, like our students overall, are wonderful,” Bentley said. “Some of my greatest field experiences and most meaningful episodes of mentoring have been with Honors students, working on thesis projects and resulting journal articles. I think that professors associated with the Honors College owe it to our students to give them the best educational experience, in terms of the goals of the College, and we also owe it to our students to help them find time to think deeply about important issues, about research, about their futures, without unneeded demands and distractions.”