Family and students remember UC Berkeley guest lecturer Shlomo Bentin

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Shlomo Bentin

Friends, family and students are remembering UC Berkeley guest lecturer and world-renowned Israeli neuropsychologist Shlomo Bentin, who died Friday evening shortly after a bicycle collision near the intersection of Bancroft Way and Fulton Street.  He was 65.

Bentin, who was also a professor of psychology and education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel and a married father of three, traveled to UC Berkeley every year to guest lecture with the campus department of psychology. Those who knew Bentin best described him as a generous, warm and wise professor who was passionate about his field.

“Students really liked him,” said Bentin’s son, Shai Bentin. “He was a good father and family man. He affected so many people. (The family is) getting letters from students we didn’t know existed and many of his co-workers.”

According to Shai Bentin, Bentin was planning to go home to Jerusalem in a month.

Bentin’s recent work on campus included research on face recognition with Lynn Robertson, a close friend and UC Berkeley adjunct professor in psychology with whom Bentin co-authored a paper. According to Robertson, Bentin was planning to retire in two years.

“He was investigating the areas in the brain where the brain actually reacts to the face, whether it reacts differently with the face for a person than the face of an animal, for example,” Shai Bentin said.

In April, Bentin received the Israel Prize in psychology, which is regarded as one of the state’s highest honors presented annually on Israeli Independence Day.

“He won (the award) … for exceptional scientific work that contributed to the culture of Israel in his case through education and clinical approaches,” Robertson said. “What he found also contributes to what we do (in the United States) and other parts of the world. He was a top scientist from here and Israel.”

College students from all of over the world have already connected online to honor Bentin through a blog created by UC Berkeley alumna Ayelet Landau, who studied under Bentin in Jerusalem.

Among the students who have submitted comments on the blog is UC Berkeley alumnus Joseph Brooks, who was also Bentin’s colleague.

“In addition to being an inspirational scientist, Shlomo was incredibly friendly and cared deeply about the people around him,” Brooks said in an email. “Shlomo loved being in Berkeley. When I saw him at a conference in May, he was full of energy from the time that he spent there.”

Another student who spoke of Bentin’s passion for teaching and his field was UC Berkeley alumna Ani Flevaris.

“It was such a pleasure to work with him because he would get so excited about new data, and even if it didn’t turn out how he expected or hoped, he never had an agenda beyond figuring out the truth,” Flevaris said in an email. “It was inspiring.”

According to Shai Bentin, the campus will hold a memorial honoring Bentin on Wednesday at 4 p.m. at 5101 Tolman Hall.