Bakersfield

The late Benjamin E. Batey helped lay the foundation for growth in northwest Bakersfield and made it one of the city's most desirable residential areas. He was an educator; advocate for student success, especially for underrepresented students; builder; real estate developer; and philanthropist. Ben passed away at the age of 78 on August 1, 2014, from Parkinson's disease and dementia.

Ben Batey grew up on a dairy farm in Tennessee and earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from Vanderbilt University. He and his wife, Gayle, came to Kern County to teach high school. After several years, he left education to become a commission-only real estate salesman with Karpe Realty, then helped develop neighborhoods, including Summerside, Amberton, Laurelglen and Pinon Springs, through a Karpe-Batey partnership. In 1973, the Bakersfield Association of REALTORS named him its salesman of the year.

In 1980, Ben and Gayle formed Batey Construction & Realty with their son, Bryan, and continued to build homes in southwest Bakersfield neighborhoods, including Stockdale Estates, Haggin Oaks, The Oaks, Seven Oaks, Palm Estates, Westdale and Olive Park. In 1987, they bought farmland north of Rosedale Highway, where there were few homes and no commercial center. The Bateys called it Westdale North. It became the first all-Batey subdivision. In all, they built nearly 1,000 homes in dozens of neighborhoods. Part of the Bateys’ Olive Park property was sold to national home builder Centex Homes.

Ben and Gayle saw education as the path out of poverty. They provided seed funding for Project BEST (Black Excellence and Scholarship in Teaching) to address low high school graduation rates among male African American students in the Kern High School District. Project BEST continues as a partnership among the Kern High School District, California State University, Bakersfield, the local business community, parents and students, providing academic support and scholarships. The Bateys have provided funding for students in CSUB’s Behavioral Neuroscience Laboratory for GRE preparation, testing fees, graduate school application fees, travel and laboratory supplies. This funding has helped more than a dozen students get accepted into graduate school. Ben and Gayle support the Boys and Girls Club and the Tejon Ranch Conservancy. They established the Batey Gardens at the Kern County Museum and financed the Batey Family Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Research Fund at the University of Southern California's Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute, which is exploring ways to prevent the diseases that claimed Ben’s life.

In recognition of his lifetime commitment to education, leadership, philanthropy and service, and his distinguished achievements, which embody the values of California State University, Bakersfield, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and California State University, Bakersfield are proud to confer posthumously upon Benjamin E. Batey the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.