Kevin Banks Takes VP Post at Morgan State

Popular assistant vice president hailed for helping make USF “a place to enjoy all that the university has to offer.”


By Kevin Burke

Special to USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (June 26, 2012) — Kevin Banks, assistant vice president and dean for students at the University of South Florida since 2006, will leave USF in August to assume new responsibilities as vice president for student affairs at Morgan State University in Maryland.


Provost Ralph Wilcox announced the change and indicated that Lesley ‘Les’ Miller Jr., currently serving as director of community relations and the Office of the Student Ombudsman, has agreed to serve as interim dean for students until the completion of a national search, beginning immediately, to identify a permanent successor to Banks.


“This is very much a case of USF’s loss being Morgan State’s gain,” said Wilcox. “Dean Banks has been a central figure in our student success initiatives and in transforming the image of USF from a ‘commuter school’ to a more residential and student-centered university now recognized, too, as one of the nation’s premier research institutions. Though we will miss his experience, seasoned insight, good humor, and passion for students, we congratulate him on this realization of a long-held professional aspiration and wish him every success in his new position at Morgan State.”


Wilcox added that Miller, a USF alumnus, would step aside from his present duties for the duration of his time as interim dean. It is a necessary step, according to Miller, so that he can concentrate on ensuring there are no gaps in meeting the ongoing needs of USF students.


“I know from my experience in Student Government (president, 1977-78) that USF has a proud history of seamless and high-quality service to our students,” Miller said. “I intend to work very hard to make sure that tradition continues. I expect to meet with Dean Banks, student leadership, and all of the offices in Student Affairs at the earliest opportunity to learn what programs are underway and what projects are planned so that we can ensure there are no breaks.”


Miller will begin in his interim role on July 16, while Banks will remain with the university until Aug. 3 in order to facilitate a smooth transition, noted Wilcox. Among his immediate plans, Miller indicated he hopes to introduce a new program aimed at improving students’ understanding of the current economy and the risks posed to their personal finances in terms of accumulated student debt.


Matthew Diaz, ’12 — until his graduation in May also the president of USF Student Government — worked closely with Banks and praised him not only for his accessibility and support, but also for “bringing more life, more spirit to campus” during his time as an undergraduate.


“I’ve known Dr. Banks, literally, from the first day of my orientation,” reflected Diaz. “For him, the focus was always making USF a place not just to come to class and learn but a place to come to class and then enjoy all of the other things that the university has to offer, from special events like the Notre Dame [football] watch party that he helped us put together to USF Day and involvement in volunteer service projects both on campus and throughout the Tampa Bay area.”


Another close associate, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Dee Siscoe, agreed that encouraging students and their family members to be active participants in the broader USF community will be the enduring mark of Banks’ time with the university.


“Kevin believes in a very holistic approach to our mission of educating students, in and out of the classroom,” Siscoe said. “He really embodies that ideal, and together with tremendous personal warmth and character he’s been an incredibly effective advocate on their behalf.”


Widely known on campus not only for his efforts connected to student learning and engagement, but also as “The Singing Dean” for entertaining audiences at student, faculty and staff, and family events with inspirational messages delivered through song in his mellifluous baritone, Banks characterized his departure as bittersweet.


“USF has given me a tremendous opportunity to expand my scope of responsibilities, to see things through a different lens,” said the Irvington, NJ, native, who came to USF from Pace University, a private institution with campuses in New York City and Westchester County, NY. “I’ve gained a real, hands-on understanding of the workings of a top-tier public research university and how to build strong collaborations across a diverse campus — all of which bodes well for me, I believe, at my next stop at a public, urban institution facing many of the same issues and challenges as USF.”


Founded in 1867 as a biblical institute by the Baltimore Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church and later re-established as Morgan College (1890), Morgan State was granted university status by the Maryland legislature in 1975 and today serves more than 8,000 students as a doctoral research university, as classified by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.


Although counted among the nation’s historically black institutions of higher education (it continues to award more bachelor's degrees to African-American students than any campus in Maryland), Morgan State traditionally has enrolled students of all racial and ethnic backgrounds in a liberal arts curriculum that today enjoys particular success producing graduates in engineering and the sciences.


Kevin Burke can be reached at 813-974-0192.