$500,000 Gift Creates an Ocean of Opportunity for Marine Bio Students


Judy Lau
Staff Writer

University of California, Santa Barbara’s department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology (EEMB) is now offering a new scholarship program conceived by two UCSB alumni and funded by their family foundation.

A gift of $500,000 from the Bentson Foundation will be used to fund the Bentson Scholars Program, a merit-based initiative for undergraduates with a keen interest in marine science. This program is a passion project for Gaucho alumnus Laurie Bentson Kauth, chair of the foundation, and her husband William Kauth, a retired marine biology teacher from Santa Barbara High School.

“When Bill was teaching, there was a sort of unofficial collaboration between his class and UCSB—they visited the campus labs quite often—and it was wonderful,” Bentson Kauth recalled. “With the Bentson Foundation we have scholarships other places, so bringing one here seemed like the perfect thing to do. And we’re really excited about it.”

For UCSB’s EEMB department, the hope is that the Bentson scholarships will provide aquatic biology students the opportunity to do invaluable research and further their marine science education. Participating in a research cruise is an experience that will set UCSB students apart from the rest when applying for jobs or graduate school.

“This looks like a win-win for students supported by the scholarships and the faculty working with these outstanding students,” said Professor Craig Carlson, chair of UCSB’s EEMB department. “It will create opportunities for undergrads and help them excel in this important field.”

For the Bentson Foundation–an organization prioritizing public education–the partnership made perfect sense. This is the foundation’s first gift to UCSB and to the UC system.

“We are pleased to support UCSB in this manner and foster future leaders in marine science, who we believe will play a critical role in protecting the world’s oceans,” said Judi Dutcher, the Bentson Foundation’s executive director. “We hope not only to grow this program at UCSB but also to inspire other donors to create a legacy of support for students that attend this important institution.”

In addition to this scholarship program, UCSB is home to an Ocean Science Education Building, which houses the new headquarters for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.

“The Channel Islands National marine Sanctuary is one of our nation’s great ocean treasures,” said Holly A. Bamford, Ph.D, NOAA’s assistant administrator for the National Ocean Service. “Not only will the new building be home to Channel Islands Sanctuary office, it will enhance how we collaborate with the university and dramatically advance our efforts in research, education and marine conservation.”

Half of the building serves as sanctuary offices where the NOAA can stay on the cutting edge of science and management. The other half of the building will house the Outreach Center for Teaching Ocean Science (OCTOS), a joint project of UCSB’s Marine Science Institute. The sanctuary will offer ocean conservation programs and marine science education to over 40,000 students annually.

With the recent addition of a new marine science building in UCSB and the new Bentson Scholarship program, students within the EEMB department are able to take full advantage of the school’s resources to further their interest in aquatic biology and marine science while gaining invaluable research experience.

“We hope these students go on to help save the ocean, which is really the reason that you study marine biology. And certainly UCSB is one of the very best places to do that,” said Bentson Kauth, whose parents, Larry and Nancy Bentson, founded the Bentson Foundation in 1956. “Hopefully they will be so inspired that they will eventually give back to UCSB, too. That’s the whole idea.”