Dr. William Brock Brentlinger: 1926-2009
Dr. William Brock Brentlinger, who personified the spirit of Lamar University’s mission of service to the community over four decades, died Thursday (Feb. 19, 2009) at the age of 82.
Dr. Brentlinger was dean of the College of Fine Arts & Communication from 1969-92, interim president in 1992-93 and assistant to the president from 1993 until his official retirement in December 2005.
“It is a rare gift to experience even the briefest association with an individual of Dr. Brentlinger’s caliber. His hallmarks are integrity, leadership, wisdom and quiet – yet monumental – talent for innovation and accomplishment,” said Lamar President James Simmons, his colleague since Simmons joined the faculty of Dr. Brentlinger’s college in 1970. “I was fortunate to be part of a collaboration that continued almost 40 years. Lamar University is richer for his service, and I will always cherish his being a mentor, role model and friend.”
As dean of fine arts and communication at Lamar, Dr. Brentlinger led the growth of Lamar’s visual and performing arts, communication and the world-renowned speech and hearing programs. In 1971, he initiated efforts to establish Lamar’s Friends of the Arts, which officially organized in 1973, to encourage the work of talented young artists, musicians and actors; to increase public awareness and understanding of the arts; and to expand the cooperation between art educators and the various communities supporting Lamar.
Under his leadership, the Friends of the Arts raised several million dollars for the enhancement of fine arts and communication excellence through the annual Le Grand Bal, which debuted in 1975 to become one of the region’s premier social and artistic events. Dr. Brentlinger’s leadership and vision led to the dedication of the Dishman Art Museum in 1983. He also was instrumental in securing approval for Lamar public radio KVLU. He and Simmons, who succeeded him as dean, were founders in 1990 of the highly successful Lamarissimo! concert series, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary next season.
Dr. Brentlinger was born in Flora, Ill., on Aug. 21, 1926. Upon graduation from Flora High School in 1944, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. After his discharge from the Navy, he married his high school sweetheard, Barbara Jean Weir, on Dec. 29, 1946. The young couple moved to Greenville, Ill., where he entered Greenville College. In May 1950, he graduated magna cum laude from Greenville College with a bachelor of arts in speech. He went from there to earn a master’s degree from Indiana State University and a doctorate in speech and rhetoric and public address from the University of Illinois.
Before coming to Lamar, Dr. Brentlinger was employed for 18 years at Greenville college as a professor of speech and later as dean of academic affairs. Besides his work at the College, he was a member of the Greenville City Council and also held leadership positions in his church where he taught an adult Sunday school class, was a member of the deacon board and sang in the adult choir. In 1969, he accepted a position as dean of what was then the School of Fine arts at Lamar.
Dr. Brentlinger was an active member of Calder Baptist Church, where he served on the deacon board, taught an adult Sunday school class and was a member of the adult choir as well as a number of committees. Besides these local responsibilities, he was appointed to the Texas Baptist Christian Education Coordinating Board.
Among other academic contributions and honors, Dr. Brentlinger served as president of the Texas Council of the Arts in education; was the recipient of the Danforth Foundation Teacher Study Grant; was a member of the Lamar University chapter of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society; and was included in Who’s Who in America.
In 1982, Dr. Brentlinger became the first recipient of the Julie and Ben Rogers Community Service Award, bestowed by Lamar University in recognition of his distinguished service to the community. The National Association of Social Workers Southeast Texas Chapter honored him in 1982 as Public Citizen of the Year.
On Aug. 15, 1992, during his tenure as interim president, Dr. Brentlinger presented Lamar’s summer commencement address.
Among his many community service activities, Dr. Brentlinger served as chairman of the Beaumont Library Commission and as president of the Southeast Texas Arts Council. He served on the board of directors of the Jefferson Theatre Preservation Society, Young Library Association, Bicentennial Committee, Beaumont Habitat for Humanity and was presdient of the Rotary Club of Beaumont.
Through Beaumont Habitat for Humanity, he was a leader in providing affordable housing to local residents. He was instrumental in Habitat’s success, particularly to its growth during its early years, and devoted many Saturdays to building homes.
The Brentlingers were married 62 years and raised six children, all of whom attended Lamar University. A son, Geoffrey Brentlinger, preceded him in death in 1989. Dr. Brentlinger is survived by his wife, Barbara; three sons and two daughters and their spouses, Gregory and Dorothy Brentlinger of Beaumont; Gary and Dee Alice Brentlinger of Houston, Rick and Rebecca Brentlinger Ray of The Woodlands, Garth and Terri Brentlinger of Nederland and Bobbie Brenglinger of Houston. He is also survived by 10 grandchildren.
A gathering of family and friends will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 21, at Broussard’s Mortuary, 1605 N. Major Drive in Beaumont. His funeral service will be at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 22, at Calder Baptist Church, 1005 N. 11th St. in Beaumont, with burial in Forest Lawn Memorial Park under the direction of Broussard’s.
Memorial contributions may be made to Calder Baptist Church 1005 N. 11th St., Beaumont, Texas 77702; Lamar University Friends of the Arts, P.O. Box 10011, Beaumont, Texas 77710; or to Greenville College, 315 E. College Ave., Greenville, Ill. 62246.