When the world was scrambling for COVID-19 supplies, Jane Bentley was right there, working 14-hour days to acquire as many masks and sanitizers as she could. That is the type of dedication she gives to all Purchasing needs, exceeding expectations, leading by example and never relaxing her exacting standards for the betterment of the college. Bentley is this year’s Vernon O. Crawley Leadership Award recipient.
On the surface, Bentley is responsible for establishing procedures that ensure the college is within the many local, state and federal purchasing requirements. But she does far more than that. She finds solutions when none are offered and ensures everyone wins. She embraces an open-door policy, so no matter who walks in her door, she is available to them. She is student-centric to a fault, making sure every department has what they need to serve students, even if it means driving to Sam’s Club in a snowstorm to get decorations for Student Life. For the past 25 years, Bentley has gone above and beyond quietly, without looking for recognition.
“Jane’s work ethic is above reproach as she consistently puts the best interest of the college at the forefront of her decision making. She works across divisions and collaborates with other areas working collectively on the college’s goals. Jane is dedicated, reliable and a good steward of the financial resources of the college. She is a huge asset to our college and is so deserving of this award and recognition,” said Theresa O’Carroll, vice president of Financial and Business Services/college treasurer.
Bentley manages the bid process for all college projects, and she does not take shortcuts on bids, notices or awards that are required. She also attends every board meeting to answer questions. She has made a conscious effort to include more diverse suppliers and businesses. In fact, she has become the defacto expert in diversity initiatives and creating processes for tracking and reporting successes in that area for other community college purchasing directors.
Bentley says her two biggest challenges have been the pandemic and the referendum that passed in 2006. In March 2020, she would wake up at 2 a.m. to check Amazon for PPE or cleaning supplies and constantly checked in with her contacts for laptops and hotspots. “Trying to get those supplies was a tremendous undertaking,” she said.
When the college passed an $89 million referendum in 2006, Bentley played a major role in that success and the subsequent building projects. She extended her community outreach to ensure advertisements and bid opportunities were known by all the trades as well as local firms and contractors, and ensured the college received the best competitive bids for projects.
“Jane is open, honest and passionate about what is best for the college and has insight on when cutting corners will have a negative impact on students and staff. Her fairness and consistency in the purchasing process makes it easy for staff to know the rules and to follow them,” said her nominator. “She handles every situation with class, grace and, when needed, humor. She treats everyone respectfully, and she does it all without ego. That is the mark of a leader, and she sets an example for all to follow.”
Integrity is a cornerstone of Bentley’s personality. A colleague who has worked closely with her on projects said, “Jane does not go along just to get along. She takes a hard line when purchasing for the college.”
That sentiment is shared by Dr. Sylvia Jenkins, college president, who said, “Jane always wants to do her very best to make sure the taxpayers’ money and the students’ tuition dollars are used wisely. She takes the time to ask questions, to make sure she is following board policy and all laws and regulations related to procurement. She not only teaches new budget managers how to process requests, but also makes sure to correct them when they go awry in the process, and that’s because she cares about the college and the people who work here.”
Bentley says variety and the interactions with faculty and staff are what she loves most about her job. “Every day I come to work expecting it to be different than yesterday, and it is. It’s never a dull moment in my office. I’m a fixer by nature, so I love the connectivity I have trying to help people when they have an issue or don’t know where to start. I get so much satisfaction knowing that at the end of the day I was able to help someone,” she said.
While Bentley can’t repeat what she thought when she found out she won the award, she is humbled by the recognition.
“I was shocked and surprised to say the least. It was not expected. Really? Me? I think I do what needs to be done so I can help faculty and staff help our students. I don’t look for recognition, so it’s hard for me to acknowledge it. I know I’m in great company, and this award is named after one of our great presidents. So many others here give all of themselves. Winning this award is just so humbling,” Bentley said.