Our Tufts: No Judgment Here

Walter Bentson, SMFA campus security officer, talks about his job and the people he meets
Watler Bentson at the SMFA lobby
“When students are having a bad day, a lot of them feel comfortable talking with me. I don’t give advice of any kind, but I listen, and I never make assumptions,” said Walter Bentson. Photo: Alonso Nichols
March 18, 2019

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“Our Tufts” is an occasional series of first-person profiles of members of the Tufts community. To see the entire series, follow Tufts Instagram, where it first appears.

Visitors to the SMFA often see campus security officer Walter Bentson when they come into school on Museum Road. Here, he tells how he got there, and what makes his job rewarding. 

I was hired by the Museum of Fine Arts Boston in 1990 for the midnight-to-eight shift. My job was to make sure everyone was secure, but in a very friendly and calm manner. Working nights, you’d walk into a lot of interesting situations. Once we had the whole atrium turfed with real grass for a performance art project. I learned not to ask questions, as long as no one was in jeopardy.

In 2004, I switched to days and moved across the street to the art school. It’s a close-knit community, and I have a lot of interaction with people—undergraduates, graduates, faculty, staff. I have a bit of a speech issue, but people are very forgiving of my gravelly voice. I’m probably a father figure, or grandfather figure, to a lot of kids here.

My wife and I used to have a dinner at our house every year for everyone who didn’t go home for Christmas. When students are having a bad day, a lot of them feel comfortable talking with me. I don’t give advice of any kind, but I listen, and I never make assumptions. You never know what might be going on in someone’s life.

Over the years, some students come back to visit with their kids and grandkids, some come back to work here, and some have shows in the Boston area. I always try to support them in a small way by stopping by.

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