The Donald E. Bently Center for Engineering Innovation was established in Spring 2003 through a substantial donation by Donald E. Bently. The Center is contained within the Mechanical Engineering Department. The mission of the Center is advancement of research, education, and the practice of mechanical engineering with innovation as a guiding principle. Rotor dynamics is the primary focus of the center; however, the center supports a broad range of secondary focus areas.
Donald E. Bently was born on October 18, 1924 in Muscatine, Iowa. Mr. Bently served in the armed forces during World War II and later attended the University of Iowa, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering in 1949, followed by a master's degree in Electrical Engineering in 1950.
Mr. Bently was perhaps best known as the founder of Bently Nevada Corporation, the world's leading supplier of condition monitoring instrumentation and services, a $250 million business that he sold to GE Power Systems in January 2002. Mr. Bently served as Chairman and CEO until that time. He also founded Bently Rotor Dynamics Research Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Bently Nevada, where the basic ideas for his bearing technology were pioneered along with numerous other contributions to the body of knowledge surrounding the behavior of rotating machinery and rotor dynamics.
Mr. Bently pioneered the first commercially successful eddy current proximity transducer and introduced its use to measure vibration and other critical parameters in rotating machinery. His visionary work in this area gave rise to an entire industry surrounding the use of vibration instrumentation to protect and diagnose machinery. The company he built, Bently Nevada Corporation, enjoys recognition as the world leader in its field. Also, he actively pioneered fully lubricated, pressurized bearing technology.
Mr. Bently was a globally recognized authority on rotor dynamics as well as vibration monitoring and diagnostics. He authored or co-authored more than 140 papers and a book on these subjects and was the holder of two patents. His active research in rotor dynamics, his prodigious capacity for invention and imagination, and his business acumen allowed him to make significant theoretical and practical contributions in this field.
Mr. Bently helped create one of the first industry-sponsored laboratories at Cal Poly, the Mechanical Engineering Vibrations and Rotor Dynamics Laboratory. This laboratory became a showcase model for industry-school partnership. Mr. Bently, then CEO of Bently Nevada Corporation, and David Esbeck, Vice President of Engineering of Solar Turbines, partnered with the Mechanical Engineering Department to completely redesign and refurbish the laboratory. Mr. Bently donated significant state-of-the-art equipment to modernize the facility. In addition, he provided training and educational materials that helped the department launch a new technical elective.
Within a year of the establishment of the Solar Turbines/Bently Nevada Vibrations and Rotor Dynamics Laboratory, Mr. Bently provided the financial resources for state-of-the-art, high-end computers for a Mechanical Engineering Computational Laboratory. Mr. Bently generously continued to provide support for upgrading the computers in the Bently Computational Laboratory.
Mr. Bently passed away on October 1, 2012 in Carson Valley, NV at the age of 87.