Interview with Dave Bentlin, Class of 1988 and 1992


Dave Bentlin



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Oral history interview with Illinois State University alum Dave Bentlin, Class of 1988 and 1992. The interview was conducted by then Milner Library student employee Ayushi Shukla in June 2023.

Bentlin shares insights into his life before ISU, his reasons for attending college, and his academic journey from majoring in accounting to history education. He reflects on his experiences as a closeted gay student, navigating challenges on campus and finding support through the Gay People's Alliance (now Pride). He fondly recalls a history of immigration class taught by Dr. Mark Wyman and describes the turmoil that led to the Beer Riots of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Bentlin also details his professional trajectory at the university over a 40-year career, from a working as a receptionist at Media Services while still an undergraduate student to becoming the president’s administrative assistant, emphasizing the personal growth and mentorship he experienced along the way. Bentlin reflects on the significance of feeling accepted as an openly gay individual in the workplace, especially considering the relative conservatism of the surrounding Bloomington-Normal community, and the comprehensive view of university operations he has gained working for so many divisions over the years.

The Prairie Pride Coalition, which Bentlin and a handful of others founded in 1995, has advocated for the rights of queer Central Illinoisans for decades. Bentlin describes the group’s initial campaign to add sexual orientation to the human rights ordinances of Bloomington and Normal as a protected class. Though the city councils did not elect to amend the ordinances the first time the issue came up for a vote, PPC’s patient advocacy eventually led to the adoption of the new clause. This work, he says, has helped create a thriving queer community and helped him to feel less invisible as a gay person in a rural area like McLean County.

Interview Date



  • Introduction; Bentlin’s background and reasons for attending college: 00:00-02:09
  • Choosing ISU; selecting a major: 02:09-05:13
  • Earliest memories of ISU: 05:13-07:02
  • Impressions of Bloomington-Normal; getting involved in Gay People’s Alliance: 07:02-10:29
  • Influential faculty and courses: 10:29-12:42
  • Beer riots; Gay Blue Jeans Day: 12:42-16:59
  • First ISU job at Media Services: 16:59-20:24
  • Decision to stay at ISU: 20:24-22:37
  • Work environment at Media Services: 22:37-24:51
  • Working on College of Education grant projects; University Advancement job: 24:51-30:18
  • Administrative assistant positions: 30:18-36:11
  • Community LGBTQ+ activism: 36:11-42:56
  • Founding Prairie Pride Coalition; human rights ordinances in Bloomington and Normal: 42:56-50:35
  • Regrets about not coming out sooner; similarities between AIDS crisis and COVID-19 pandemic: 50:35-55:54
  • Reflecting on career at ISU; conclusion: 55:54-1:00:54

Interview with Dave Bentlin, Class of 1988 and 1992