Larry Bentson began a 75-year broadcasting career as a 12-year-old on a Twin Cities radio show, The Old Woman and the Shoe. He earned $1 and two streetcar tokens per episode.
Born N. Lawrence Bentson in Lidgerwood, N. Dakota, in 1921, he graduated from St. Paul Central High School and earned an engineering degree from the University of Minnesota in 1943. Upon graduating he joined the US Navy, serving as a Seabee officer in the Solomon Islands during World War II. In 1946 he married Nancy Ruben and in 1949 he founded Midcontinent Media with his father-in-law, Eddie Ruben, and business partner Joe Floyd.
In 1952, Bentson became chairman of the board of Midcontinent Media when it acquired a Sioux Falls radio station and built the first TV station in South Dakota. The company continued to acquire several radio and TV stations in Wisconsin and Minnesota, including KDWB and WLOL 99.5 FM (now KSJN-FM). Under his direction, WMIN-11, which would become KARE-11 went on the air in September 1953.
Midcontinent Media entered the cable TV industry in the 1960s and expanded into broadband Internet and telephone service. The company now provides cable television, digital telephone and broadband in Minnesota, North and South Dakota.
In 2008, Bentson received the Ward L. Quaal Broadcast Pioneer Award from the Broadcasters Foundation of America. He was an inaugural member of the Museum of Broadcasting Hall of Fame and was a past president of the Minnesota Broadcasters Association.
Larry and Nancy Bentson had two daughters, Jan and Laurie. After Nancy’s death, Larry married Barbara Braman in 2005. Larry died in April of 2009, he was 87.
Minneapolis native Nancy E. Bentson was born in 1924 to Edmond and Evelyn Ruben.
Nancy graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1945 with a degree in medical technology. The following year, she married Larry Bentson and the couple had two daughters.
Nancy’s father, Edmond Ruben, was a leading figure in the entertainment and media industry in the upper Midwest. He owned several movie theaters, radio and television stations in Minneapolis. Lifelong philanthropists, Mr. and Mrs. Ruben donated several films and works of art to the Walker Art Center.
In 1999, Nancy and Larry Bentson established the Bentson Family Fund at the Walker Art Center for the acquisition, conservation and presentation of film. This gift, coupled with the previously established Ruben/Bentson Film and Video Study Collection has helped the Walker Art Center create one of the world’s pre-eminent collections of 20th century avant-garde film.
Nancy and Larry Bentson began donating to the University of Minnesota in 1977 with gifts supporting student scholarships, a pediatric cardiology fellowship, the Department of Pediatrics and the Pediatrics Family Center. In 1989, the couple established the Ruben-Bentson Chair in Pediatrics.
In 2003, Larry and Nancy donated $10 million to the University of Minnesota to establish the Bentson Family Scholarship program. At the time, it was the largest scholarship gift ever received by the University of Minnesota.
As a child Nancy Bentson was an accomplished equestrian with her favorite horse, Rhythm Boy. She later became a champion golfer and an expert bridge player. She was a volunteer concierge at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, introducing passengers to the Twin Cities area. Nancy died in 2004.
The Bentson Foundation is a 501(c)3 private family foundation founded in 1956. Larry and Nancy Bentson spent most of their lives in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota. Larry was the CEO of MidContinent Media and was inducted into the Museum of Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2001. Lifelong philanthropists, Nancy and Larry created The Bentson Foundation to continue their legacy of giving.