Barbara Banks retires but continues to inspire

Michaela James-Thrower
Executive Staff 

Barbara Banks, more commonly known as Ms. B, has made an impact on students across this campus for the past 30 years. 

Banks’s official title was Director of Student Life until her retirement was announced in the summer of 2021. She took that role seriously as she advocated for students in all aspects of their Sewanee careers including academics, sports, arts, and friendships, particularly as a mentor to the University’s Posse Scholars. Taking a deeper look on her impact on the Posse program, students and faculty reflected on Banks’s impact on their Sewanee experience. 

Yazmine-Gizzele Ali (C ’24) says, “Ms. B is the perfect representation of a strong Black woman. She was kind and empathetic. You could bring her any problem and she would find a solution. ”

“Ms. B was the person who guided me through my interest and gave me direct advice on how to achieve my goals,” Cyrus Wilson (C ’24) says.  “She has made so many students’ experiences better at Sewanee and was the backbone of our community. She is like the coach of a team.”

Kairi Gardner (C’22) says, “Ms. B was the band-aid holding this campus together. I honestly never knew her professional job title because she had her fingerprints in every department. Whenever she saw a situation that needed to be handled, she handled it.”

Ms. B’s impact on this campus was more than her literal job description. She was home for so many of Sewanee’s community members. 

Gardner says, “Ms. B was like that grandmother that always gives you money every time you see her at a family gathering or asks you a million times if you’ve eaten yet whenever you come to visit her. Whether the conversation was about Sewanee, relationships, or real life struggles, she always seemed to have an answer that helped you get through your storm”. 

Associate Dean of the College Betsy Sandlin says, “Everyone knew that she would listen and do what she could to help, no matter what the issue was. She was the matriarch of the whole Posse program.”

Tiani Williams (C’24) says, “She treated us like her own kids. We could come to her about more than just school. She didn’t like having boring meetings.  She knew the importance of encouragement as opposed to forcing us to do things.”

Delana Turner (C’24) says, “Ms. B made me feel like I belonged in Sewanee even when I was learning remotely and felt like I had no part in the community. When I began to fall behind in my classes, she worked with me and encouraged me to get myself together and get back on track.”

She made campus safe and she made Posse a family. Ms. B gave everything she had to students. She fought for people with her whole being and was extremely resilient. She was a supporter, a mentor, and a friend. She left many students with so many memories and skills that will be cherished for the rest of their lives.

Makayla Williams (C’24) says, “My favorite memory of Ms. B was her laugh. I think that no matter what the context of our conversation seemed to be, she made me laugh, and I appreciated that.” 

The impact that she left on this campus will be everlasting. 

Sandlin says, “Ms. Barbara took me under her wing immediately, sharing her wisdom and knowledge with me, and answering any question I had. She helped me get up to speed on each Scholar’s needs and strengths and filled me in on Posse traditions, resources, and processes. But she was also open to my ideas and always willing to collaborate. I could always count on her wisdom, experience, humor, and guidance. I really miss her.”

Williams says, “Ms. B set the standard for what being a mentor really encompasses. By extending her role as a mentor and being candid, nurturing, and concerned she laid strong foundations within the individuals she mentored.”

One comment

  1. Barbara will truly be missed. That lady was a true inspiration not only to students, but also to those of us who worked there. I couldn’t have been nearly as successful without Barbara. She is truly an amazing woman!!!

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