NIU today | Banks and Erickson encourage Huskies to donate during Huskies United
Raymond Banks, MS ’86, says that when he and her husband Dr Eric Erickson attended college they each received a helping hand in the form of financial aid which enabled them to pursue further education. higher education and gave them greater opportunities. Giving back is a way for them to be a force for good in the world, Banks says.
“We want young people to discover themselves the way we did, to find out what they are good at and what they love to do, and apply it to good initiatives that are just, just and better. Banks says. “Finally, we want young people to realize that the proverbial person ‘who gets up on their own’ is about as rare figuratively as they literally are. Everyone gets help along the way. The three most humiliating words you will say are: “I need help”. The most rewarding are, “I can help. “
Banks, who earned a master’s degree in geology from NIU, and Erickson have demonstrated their passion for philanthropy for years through their Banks-Erickson scholarship fund, which provides financial assistance to undergraduate students. They also have an enduring commitment to many other NIU funds.
But during the Huskies United Donation Day, the couple is gaining momentum with their Banks-Erickson Huskies United Participation Challenge. When 1,000 freebies are made during Huskies United, a gift of $ 150,000 from Banks and Erickson will be released to donate totals to support scholarships.
“Eric and I had the opportunity to go to college and pursue higher education with financial aid, probably from people we never knew, but who also wanted a deserving student. have the same experience and opportunities as them, ”says Banks. “We are simply the next extension of this continued goodwill and spirit of progress and enlightenment. We hope that the students who benefit from our scholarships discover things about themselves and the world around them, and learn to contribute to society in a positive way.
In 1961 Banks was born the seventh of eight children to career Army officer Jack and housewife Gertrude Banks in little Savanna, Illinois. As with many military families, Banks’ family moved often. While his father served in Vietnam as a military advisor in 1964, the family moved to Oklahoma near relatives who were stationed at Fort Sill. From there, after his father’s return from Vietnam, the family would move to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, West Germany, and Fort Sheridan, Illinois, before settling for civilian life in the suburb of Park Forest, Illinois.
Banks’s father is an African American and his mother is white and is a naturalized American citizen of German ancestry. Banks says coming from a both racially and nationally mixed family made for some impactful life experiences.
“My parents met when my father was stationed in France and Germany in the late 1950s,” says Banks. “After their marriage in Germany, my mother immigrated to the United States in 1960 when they returned to the United States, and she became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1967. My parents were pioneers in this regard, and It took a lot of courage and love to get through the first few trials, but they made it through, only separated by the death of my father in 1994.
Banks adds that the sad irony of his parents’ relationship is never lost on him. They were able to get married in Germany, less than 15 years after the fall of Nazi Germany, but still could not legally marry in half of the states of the United States in the late 1950s.
Banks says these experiences had a profound impact on his upbringing, especially since he was raised on military bases that had been integrated shortly after the end of World War II and were considered safe for the Blacks and multiracial families like hers.
“My parents did a great job protecting us kids from some of the ugliest aspects of race relations in the 1960s,” he says. “My dad had to do his homework before we traveled by car and usually drove to an establishment while we waited in the car to see if we would be welcome, especially in motels. Sometimes we had to move on. I often think of the indignity that my father had to endure. By 1967 he had already served his country for 25 years, was a veteran of WWII, Korea and Vietnam, and was still turned away from business establishments because of the color of his skin, sometimes in uniform. Having said that, my parents were always focused on the future and never let themselves or our family distracted. Things were getting better and things would be better, especially for us kids, and they were and are even better.
Banks says his family is united and he has never heard his parents say a negative phrase about someone because of their skin color, religion, nationality or sexual orientation. Being raised in a household without bigotry shaped his outlook as an adult, he says.
“I’m sure it gave me a more diplomatic approach to life and a tendency to resolve disputes amicably, which continued in my career and made me a better negotiator in business,” that people trusted, ”he says.
The banks’ decision to come to NIU was a fluke, he says. In the summer of 1983, Banks was studying at Illinois State University for an undergraduate degree in geology when he attended a field camp program in the Black Hills of South Dakota. At the time, the ISU and NIU ran their field camps together. It was during the camp that he met Dr Clarence “Clancy” Casella, one of the NIU professors who would become a mentor.
Dr. Casella was awesome, he would point a finger at a rocky outcrop and ask the group of students accompanying him a question like, ‘What kind of rock is this? Sedimentary, igneous or metamorphic? Or, what training is it? ‘ Banks said. “And of course, being anxious college students, eager to show how smart we are, someone would have blurted out an answer. Then Dr Casella was like, ‘How do you know? You didn’t even go up there and look at the rock! Don’t be lazy; walk before you speak.
ISU professor Dr. James Kirchner first approached Banks with the topic of graduate school, but at the time that wasn’t in his cards.
“I was the first generation on either side of my family to go to college,” he says. “Just going to and passing undergraduate school was quite daunting financially for me and my parents. I did it with my parents’ help, work summers and vacations, and student loans. When I finished my undergraduate studies, I was in debt and needed to get to work.
Banks struggled to find a job in the oil and gas industry at the time because many required a master’s degree. So he swallowed his pride and got a job in the shoe store where he worked in high school and college after some encouragement from his father. Eventually, however, Banks managed to land a job as a lab technician at Mobil Chemical Company in Kankakee, Illinois.
It was during his time at Mobil that he was contacted by Dr Malcolm “Mac” Weiss, professor of geology at the NIU, who asked him if he would be interested in pursuing higher education and working for him in France. doing research in Utah. Banks had been highly recommended by Dr Casella as part of the field camp program. After telling Dr. Weiss he couldn’t afford graduate school, the professor gave him life-changing information.
“He told me there were teaching and research assistant positions I could apply for that could offset the costs, and that caught my attention,” Banks says. “After I got a teaching assistant position, I made the decision to study at NIU and work with Dr. Weiss in Utah. I couldn’t have done it without the financial help of the teaching assistant, and I was amazed that Dr Casella remembered me – let alone recommended me – for such an opportunity. It changed my life. Thanks to Dr Casella and Dr Weiss, this will ripple into the future and help change the lives of our families and deserving NIU students through the Banks-Erickson Scholarship, College of Liberal Arts Advisory Fund and sciences, at the Casella Field Camp Fund. and the Malcolm P. Weiss Fund, which we support.
By supporting these funds, Banks and Erickson are ensuring that the legacy of influential professors like Casella and Weiss lives on.
“Beyond bringing me to NIU in the first place, Dr Casella and Dr Weiss have been a constant source of wisdom and knowledge, encouragement and friendship,” Banks said. “Both were advisers on my thesis. One of the first things Dr. Weiss made me do was take a writing class. I protested, thinking my writing skills were pretty good, but he said, “No they’re not; nobody comes here who can write well enough and if you want to work with me you take a course. So I took up “technical writing”. You know someone really cares about you when they tell you all the stupid things you do, not just the right ones, and none of those gentlemen were shy about that. I turned to the equally rough and refined edges of the two men, and I guess they reminded me a bit of my own father, who was familiar to me. With Dr Casella, it was more about ‘be brief, be bright, go’. With Dr. Weiss, conversations were more nuanced, as we looked for ways to thread the needle. Both were helpful at the right time.