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Larry Bentson, Midcontinent's Chairman, Dies at 87

Midcontinent Communications board chairman N. Lawrence "Larry" Bentson died Sunday, April 12, at age 87. The company said he had battled cancer.

Bentson, of St. Paul, Minn., began his broadcast career as a 12-year old actor, continuing as a part-time radio engineer and announcer in the late 1930s and early ‘40s, the Minneapolis-based company said. After graduating from the University of Minnesota and then serving in the Navy during World War II, he returned to the Twin Cities and built WMIN-TV, Channel 11.

He became one of the founding partners of what ultimately became Midcontinent Media with Eddie Ruben and Joe L. Floyd, who owned theatres throughout Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota and Wisconsin. The Ruben, Floyd, and Bentson partnership went on to build television stations in South Dakota, Iowa, and Wisconsin; buy and operate radio stations in the upper Midwest; build and acquire cable television systems in the Dakotas and Minnesota and upgrade them to provide customers with the latest voice, video and data services.

He was proud of the Bentson family leadership position in philanthropy for community and non-profit organizations, including the University of Minnesota, United Hospital of St. Paul, Mount Zion Temple, Walker Art Center and the Pavek Museum of Broadcasting. The Bentson family established a chair for the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota Medical School along with numerous fellowships, and in 2003 he and his late wife, Nancy, established a $10 million endowment fund awarding four-year scholarships to incoming freshmen to the University of Minnesota. The success of this program was recognized by the presentation of the 2007 University of Minnesota's Regents Award.

Other recent honors included the Ward L. Quall Broadcast Pioneer Award from the Broadcasters Foundation. This past April he was elected into the Cable TV Pioneers society at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association convention.