By Amirah Johnson
Ohio, Amsterdam, Chicago, New York, Orlando, Hong Kong, London, and Delaware. Those are just a few places to name that Terry Bankston has left his mark on. In his extensive career he has traveled across the globe, working in education, at several major corporations, and meeting top entertainers and athletes. Mr. Bankston joined the Hornet family about a year and a half ago as the Director of the Office of Career Services. Since continuing his career at DSU, he has brought his wisdom, drive, and dedication to ensure that each student is equipped with their own pathway to success.
Q: Where were you born and what was your upbringing like?
A: I was born in Dayton, Ohio. I’m the youngest of four children. My sisters all went to a HBCU. They went to Central State University. They’re a little older than I am, so I got a chance to visit a HBCU when I was really young, but I didn’t go to one. It was a good childhood for me. I enjoyed growing up. I played basketball, football, sports and played in the band. Always was a part of student government within the school. I went to a co-op high school, so that was a pretty interesting. One of five schools in the country. Patterson Cooperative High School in Dayton, Ohio.
My area of profession was business. The way the school works is you interview for four jobs in the middle of your sophomore year, and then one of the jobs takes you. Then you work two weeks and you go to school two weeks. You have a person that’s your opposite, so when I’m in school they’re doing the job I was doing. We got paid forty hour weeks. It was a full school year. For two years we went to school and went to work. We had two weeks off for vacation, so that was it growing up. I grew up with some very dear friends that I still have as friends now. I have friends from elementary school that we talk once a week.
Q: Who has been the greatest influence in your life that has impacted the man you are today?
A: Other than God it would be probably my mom and my dad. My whole family. If my sisters ever saw this they’d be mad that I didn’t say them, but we’re a very very close family. Being the youngest and the only boy in the family I didn’t say that, but we always looked out for each other. My family as a whole were the most influential pieces ‘cause the love that I get from them is is unmatched. We are all believers in God and it just keeps us grounded.
Q: What about your family?
A: Well we are very sports oriented. All three of my sisters were teachers, or administrators in elementary and grade schools. When they were doing that I was out doing corporate work and nonprofit. I promised myself I would never be a teacher, or get into education because I saw what they were going through. Never say what you’re not going to do and that’s a lesson for the students. Don’t ever tell yourself what you’re not going to do ,because there’s a bigger plan. I ended up in education for a while. Loved it.
Went back to corporate for a while, but my family was always there to encourage me. Whatever I was doing. Playing basketball in college they were always there. I had a nephew that had lupus. I think that me playing basketball in college, he was ten years younger than me kept him going. He would come and sit there , and I thought I was hard on myself my nephew was a lot harder on me than I could be. Anytime I did something stupid on the court if I looked in the stands he would be shaking his head. That was enough for me to get back up, and start doing my work, and get it done.
Q: Can you tell us of your education history and what your goals or life ambition was when you were a student in High School/College?
A: My first major was computer programming- data processing was what they called it back then. There wasn’t this whole Mac thing and the whole Windows. It was all punch cards and big boxes of punch cards that you would have to go through just to make all these data pieces come out. I didn’t have the patience for that once I got into it. I would probably be a millionaire right now if I would’ve stayed in that, but I didn’t. I changed to business and management. My goal was to get in banking and I wanted to be the best branch manager in Dayton, Ohio. That’s what my plan was, but soon as I got out and got in to banking as Assistant Branch manager, the whole banking industry changed. I decided to take another turn in my different co-op jobs that I had in high school was with General Motors, and so I had a lot of production experience. I got an offer with Xerox to go to Rochester, New York in manufacturing. I left Dayton, and it started the whole gambit of my career. I’ve done so many different things across my career, and now I’m at Delaware State.
Q: Can you tell us of your job/education experience prior to what you’re doing now?
A: I was an adjunct at the University of Cincinnati. I would start off each semester with talking to the students. I’d say that I was born in Dayton Ohio, came to Cincinnati, went to school for four years, and went back to Dayton worked for First National Bank. In a year at First National Bank, I went from Dayton to Rochester, New York with Xerox. Xerox promoted me to Oldbrook, Illinois. Then I got two promotions with Xerox in Chicago. Then got a new offer to go to Kodak, went back to Rochester, New York. Then Kodak took me on assignments to Dallas, Houston, Long Island, and Philadelphia. Where I landed a position in a brand new division in Philadelphia. I took a leave of absence from Philadelphia went to Amsterdam in the Netherlands for six months. Came back to Philadelphia got an offer with M&M Mars and moved to Cleveland, Ohio. I was in Cleveland a few years and then I got an offer to go to my fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi. I was a Director of our International Foundation. I moved to Philadelphia back to Philadelphia and from Philadelphia I took a job with the National Black MBA Association as their first Director of Corporate Relations and Corporate Sponsorships for the whole organization.
I moved back to Chicago, so I was in Chicago for another set of years with Black MBA. Then I got an offer to interview for a job as the President of Urban League in Orlando. I got that position which I thought was my dream job and in the process of the interview my dad passed away. I went to Orlando, because I knew that’s what he would have wanted me to do. I spent two years in Orlando and God told me to go home. All those jobs took me back to Dayton. I wanted to spend time with my mom and so I moved back to Dayton. That was the first time in my life outside of high school that I didn’t know what I was going do.
I had no plan. I didn’t have a job. I just knew I was gonna spend time with my mom. Some quality time. I took a couple of temporary jobs, working at a Black newspaper in Cincinnati. I was with Meryl Lynch for little while and then I got my alma matter University of Cincinnati. My resident advisor was the Director of Career Services or Career Development at the time and she asked me would I like to come and work in her department. Sure. That’s how I got into higher ed and that was the funny part about getting into education. So now I’m teaching and doing career services, but all those jobs that I did prepared me for the career services. The creative development part of it, because I could talk from an experience standpoint. As opposed to not having any of that background in different areas, so non-profit, for profit major corporations, all the sales and marketing, or manufacturing, and nonprofit leadership. It helped to me to be a pretty well rounded person.
I stayed at the University of Cincinnati for five years and Walmart came knocking at the door. You just can’t say no to the world’s largest retailer, so I moved to Bentonville, Arkansas as the Director of University Recruiting across all pillars of the company. I had a chance to really do some great things there and get them on the map from a diversity recruiting standpoint with the Tier 1 nonprofit organizations. All those organizations that I was working with along the lines now I was getting Walmart involved from a recruiting standpoint. I did that for four years.
Then went to American Airlines for few years ‘cause I really wanted to get to know the airline business and travel. I did that for a few years and while I was in Norfolk with American I got the call to interview for this position. It was the best thing I’ve ever done. I’m so glad to be here at Delaware State. Dr. Stacy Downing and I are UC Alums. Dr. Allen was a Urban League President in Wilmington when I was the President in Orlando, so we were in the Urban League at the same time. So things just started meshing and you asked me something earlier. You never think about where you think you’re going to be. You have to go where God puts you and so I get a chance to be here, came in during COVID, met students like yourself, and had a great staff, and we’re rocking and rolling.
Q: What was the most memorable point at that job/school?
A: I think my time working in the communities. Any of the jobs I’ve had we did diversity recruiting, so I always made myself a part of if they were going to an HBCU, or going out to recruit diverse candidates. I was always volunteering to be that person to represent the company. When I had a chance to work for my fraternity, for the National Black MBA Association, for the Urban League , just the opportunity to go out to the community and help people to better themselves. That was always big for me. That was huge and those are the kind of things where if I can help people get better jobs, help them be able to support their families better, really help them to be a better person that was the big part. My time at the University of Cincinnati and my time here helps me to try to encourage the students as much as possible and alumni try to make their whole holistic peace. With the COVID situation it really gives me a chance to help them. To really try to dig into what their values, their vision, and mission in life, and to try to build a better future for themselves and their families and their communities.
Q: Is this where you thought you’d be 5 or so years ago?
A: No, I did not know that I would be at this fine HBCU institute of higher learning, Delaware State University!
Q: What informed your decision on doing what you’re doing now?
A: My decision to come here was easy due to my love for serving students and helping them with career/professional development goals and desires.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
A: Wake up tomorrow. That’s a big deal is to wake up and you wake up tomorrow too. I think the biggest part is we’ve got a grant for Bank of America for a million dollars and it’s helping me to reimagine what my department looks like. The big part of it is to be able to build a collaborative base on campus. First of all make sure that everybody knows that I can’t do this job without the support of all the different colleges including the Graduate School, as well as institutional advancement, URELAH, all those areas. Even the library. I have to work with them to make the students whole and in the fact that I have corporate relations and nonprofit and government relationships and help them to be able to come on campus and be prepared to recruit our students with different jobs and different opportunities and make sure that everybody connects.
My goal is to make sure that we put together a career pathways program to help to train students on the skills that are needed for them to be the best they are for the companies. That the companies are getting what they need from the students, and students are getting what they need from their companies. It’s not a surprise when they go to work, so the goal is also for our students to go in not at the entry level position from internship standpoint, but at that first or second level up after they get their degree. Whether its undergraduate or graduate.
Q:What kind of advice would you offer a student, who is undecided on his or her career path?
A: I think the biggest part is we have some assessments that they can do online to develop their strengths, or find out what their strengths, their weaknesses are, what their values are, what type of work environment that they like to to be a part. Their personality types and then really to seek out as much help as possible. That’s been a big part of building that holistic student to understand that you know there has to be a balance.
You guys are very good at the social side of things, and you’re just as strong on the technical side, but there’s a balance in between. If you’re not a whole person where you-my word for 2022 is F.L.Y. First love yourself. If you can’t love who you are then you’re not gonna be able to give everything to either of those other areas and when somebody is gonna suffer, it’s gonna be you. My current is to the obvious of build your resume, work on your interview skills, but above all that with the COVID piece you have to have empathy for the companies that you’re going to and the opportunities that you’re going to be a part of.
Be empathetic on yourself, because these last twenty four months have not been something that was planned, or anybody has any experience in being. It made you have to dig deep in yourself, or you’re going to be just going with the flow of what everybody else is doing. You have a chance to build on what really matters to you and you have to know that about yourself. As opposed to just doing it, because somebody else is doing it. Whether it’s a career. Whether it’s where you go to live, even relationships. Choose your friends by those that are really trying to support you and you’re supporting them. It’s not personal. Get it done, and have faith in yourself. Believe in what’s going on.
Q:How would you describe the state of higher education in America today?
A: I think we base it off of Dr. Allen’s philosophy of that “It All Matters.” These past 24 months has been tough on faculty and administration, because they had to pivot real quick. That’s again- it’s across all colleges, universities, technical schools, and the whole nine yards. Everybody had to pivot and so it’s sort of the playing field out, because you had to build on that platform on what really is important to the Universities. I think we’ve done a fantastic job here at Delaware State with addressing the whole COVID process. Where you have to be tested. The rate of people that have been affected by COVID is so low here compared to some other schools. That it’s amazing even with the variants that are happening, because it’s a caring part that starts at the top. You’ve seen some transition from some schools, because they weren’t prepared for it. When you get hit by something, and you’re not prepared, something stops, but it didn’t happen here. There’s been some changes here, but overall I think that students have gotten stronger with each other in the whole communication piece. I think that we’re in a good place moving up the companies have not left us.
We just had a very successful Career Fair on Tuesday the 15th, where we had about a hundred and ten companies. We had to limit it to a hundred and ten, because of the COVID protocol and again that’s another collaborative piece. We work very closely with the Enterprise Risk Management team and they helped walk us through how the booths should be set up, how masks should be worn, we had ventilation, we had hand sanitizers everywhere, and a lot of space that people could walk into.Those are the things that have made all of the universities across the country have to address and assess. I think it’s made the universities as a whole much more health conscious which makes the environment easier for people to learn.
Q:Have you ever travelled outside of the United States? Where, and how does life outside compare to that in the US?
A: Yes. I’ve traveled with all my jobs. Especially with the non-profit jobs. I’ve traveled outside the states. Spent time in London, Amsterdam, Hong Kong and Paris. It made me appreciate living here in the United States from the standpoint of some of the freedoms, but the fact that we’re not a classist system. That we’re trying to get better. We haven’t gotten there yet, but we’re trying to get better. Each country has its positives. I spent a good amount of time in Amsterdam which was fun. They eat healthy. They walk and ride bicycles . They stay healthy. Some other things that they do a lot of that we don’t get to do as much here now that things are changing here. Every place has their positives. When folks come here they see more of a prejudice standpoint that they do over there where it’s more classist. Everybody gets along even though they look different, but there is different areas like class systems. I was happy to come home when I came home, but I’m a little biased having three sisters in some places that they didn’t treat women the way I would have liked to see women treated. I won’t say which country those were, but but I’m happy with the time I had to travel.
My best experiences overseas where with Black MBA. Diane Abbott who was the first Black member of the House of Parliament in London hosted myself, and four other people for breakfast in the House of Commons before they went in the session. We were there at seven in the morning and they drink a lot of champagne. We were having champagne at 7:15 with omelets and crepes. That whole ambiance of being in the House of Parliament was unbelievable. The artwork, architecture work, it was just amazing, so that was probably the most exciting part of being a guest in that environment.
Q: What does the future hold for America?
A: I think again with the COVID it has brought another sense of opportunity for us to get past some of the things that are holding us back. The whole virtual piece has given us a chance to from a- you know I did find diversity not just on race and gender, but on this generation of diversity. In my generation working virtually wasn’t gonna happen. You come to work. You clock in. You get here at eight, eight thirty, nine o’clock. Then you leave at five, five thirty, or you leave when the job’s done. The generations that were coming after us are saying, well you know Mr. Bankston, I can do just as much work from home with my laptop then I could do in here. Just that hold social interaction piece, but now that we’ve seen that we can do both really gives us a chance to expand the horizon and work closer together if we decide to do that. The companies that we are working with right now through the Career Services Office have been amazing for making that transition and being able to work with the students to help train them. I think it’s a bright future from an education to corporate and job standpoint. On both sides of the coin I think that the social skills still have to be brought back to center.
For two years especially from the student standpoint, from the empathetic side students were around family all the time, one around people that agreed with everything they said. That whole interaction with everybody else wasn’t there, so now you coming back together. That first semester had to be tough here. You had freshman who’d never been on campus. You had sophomores that had never been on campus. Then our Wesley acquisition, students had never been here before. That’s like three whole classes of people that are just brand new to campus.
Then our juniors who haven’t been here since they were freshmen and then the seniors missed their whole sophomore, junior year almost. It’s tough, because you need that interaction and that social skills piece. I’ve been trying to do more to get them prepared from a social standpoint and back to your question is that the country as a whole has to do a better job with that socialization piece. Now that they’re starting with the mask piece again and changing things. You know respect people’s space and make it a better piece where if we all work together things can workout. I’m always looking at the glass is half full instead of half empty. Then we could build from all the negative stuff that’s going on and get passed all that, but not forget where we came from. We’re not who we used to be, but we’re not where we want to go.
Q:Are you interested in politics? If no, why not? What is your take on the state of politics and the future of the American democracy?
Am I interested in politics as far as Terry being a politician? No, negative. I know where my lane is and it’s not politics. I’ve had a chance to be around some pretty good political leaders. The one thing I know about some of the Presidents that I’ve had a chance to meet and Mayors and people that are in those authoritative roles, government wise, they have great memories. They don’t forget anything. They don’t forget faces. They have some great people around them and it’s a tough job. Even when I was the CEO of Urban League I could never figure out why CEO’S were always so aloof. I’d be in a room with them and they talk to each other and they laugh and joke, but then when somebody else comes into to the conversation it sort of changes. I used to think that was so weird, but when I realized it was the fact that you have to be careful with the information that you have as a leader. That you don’t talk about things. That really nobody can do anything with the information.
My personality is such where I’m a friendly guy. I had to learn very quickly that-we could be friends at work as even my coworkers, when I’m president of the Urban League, but I can’t tell you everything and that was a large lesson for me to learn, so I could do it from a corporate and nonprofit standpoint from a career services standpoint politics no. I’m not into that and I pray for everybody that does it. It’s for some people. That’s their lifestyle they grew up in it . That’s what they want to do, but not me. I think the political future of the country is such- I always want to ask president- I really wish I had a chance to ask Barack Obama, President Obama, that what is the vision and mission of the United States? When I look at it from a corporate standpoint corporations have a vision and a mission. It doesn’t matter who the president of the company is that they’re gonna keep striving for that vision and mission of the company, because that’s the way the company goes. Sometimes in elections if another party comes in it’s like everything changes and are we still shooting for the same vision and mission for the whole country? I’d like to hear their answer to the vision and mission of the country. That’s my view on politics and I’ll stay right there.
Q: How are you responding to the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus? How did you handle the stay-at-home order?
A: Stay at home order was was pretty easy. I have two sons. They’re older, so they’re gone. It’s just me at my house, so it was easy for me to do that you know cook for myself. It was hard to work from home. When I was with the airlines when COVID first hit before I came here that was a situation where you had it went from a hustle bustle every day airport to crickets. For quite a bit of time when people weren’t flying at all and that made it a little tough you know coming to work and there was just nothing going on. I’m glad to see things pick up but it helped me to ease into the whole COVID piece, because we had to get letters that said it was mandatory for us to come to work, so that if we ever got stopped by the police if there was ever a time when it was mandated that people couldn’t be out or doing things I was essential for whatever that means. I was essential and had to come to work. That was a good thing, because you got to see different industries. How they reacted to the situation. I really felt for the restaurants and the small business owners, and how they had to take a hit, but the government stepped up to help them. I think that I handled it as well as I could. I got fully vaccinated. I take my test here twice a week, so I’ve been blessed. I’ve seen people that have come down with COVID-19 and it was tough on them and their families. I just haven’t had that in my family. We haven’t experienced that.
Q: What about virtual learning or telecommuting?
A: Not with the airline. There was no telecommunication with the airlines, or virtual anything with airlines. Coming here again being the personality that I have I mean I wouldn’t have got a chance to sit down and have this conversation with you in person for the first you know eight months that I was here and that was tough. Not knowing any anybody here and looking at people with masks on, doing the zoom calls, Webex meetings, and then I’d bump into folks out and I wouldn’t know who anybody was. As career services, I have to know who people are. That’s my personality is to get to know you like this, so it was tough for me, but it gave me an opportunity to get into what was going on in the office.
How I want to set up the office and then you know get things rocking and rolling. Then had some staff situations that happened at the beginning of this semester in August of last year. Just helped me to build and make things happen, so we’ve done information sessions with companies we’ve had to work with them wherever they were meet them where they are from can they come to campus can they not come to campus can they travel. Listen you know some people Webex doesn’t work and with different bands some of the like government agencies cannot do virtual type things, because they can’t afford for their system that be hacked into. Banking industries and some financial institutions don’t mix well with what we’re doing here, so our IT department here has been on point. They’ve been excellent for what we’re trying to do. It’s been a nice run, but our career fair that was here last week- no way I was going to do it virtual. I needed that interaction for the students and for the staff and the faculty and and for the companies to really see and appreciate the tenacity of our faculty and our staff and our administration and our students. Especially the students and they came through like champs. I was very proud to have been a part of that event last week.
Q: How can the government better handle the situation?
A: I think if we just keep the medical experts on top of things and what’s going on and not have any cuts in funding for making sure that we are ahead of the game from some of the variants. Do what they do best and respect that. COVID to me is not political. It shouldn’t be political. When you have millions of people dying it’s not politics. COVID is not biased toward any party. I think the government is such where they really need to stay focused on making sure that it’s funded, and that everybody has what they need to get the job done.
Q: What keeps you going during these trying times?
A: Prayer. I pray a lot. I pray every day. I’ll sit here in the morning and pray. I think the encouragement from my family is huge. I’ve met some great people here at the university that I have gotten to know and been a part of my life that helps the transition go. I’ve got an excellent team. My staff here we we’re just one big unit and it works. I’m looking forward to the future and we’re gonna make this thing work. Career Services is back on the block and the University is going to benefit from everything that we do. We’re going to benefit from being a part of collaborating with other folks in the university. I really want the students to understand that it’s not any competition that we want everybody to win. Whether you want to be your own boss, going to work for a major corporation , or you wanna work for nonprofit organization. Any career you want to take a look at will help you find that pathway to get to it, and we’ve got people that are anxious to work with you. Take advantage of it, but you have to take advantage of all the other services on campus. Counseling, the medical area for the COVID testing, meet with your advisors, meet with your teachers, and your professors on a regular basis to make sure you’re on top of things. Have fun and get your resume done. Get your interview skills together, and get ready for life after college.
Q: What are your hobbies or extracurricular activities?
A:I love to travel. That’s been sort of cut with COVID. I do photography. That’s my paid hobby. I’ve had the blessing to work with some top entertainers, athletes, on doing some photography work throughout many years of doing that piece.
Spending time with my sons and my family. That’s huge for me. My family has a conference call on Wednesdays and Sundays. We get on the phone. We just catch up and see what everybody is doing. Make sure if there’s anybody that needs some help doing some things , or prayer we all get together on Sundays and Wednesdays. This has been going on for probably about nine years now we’ve been doing this. It’s a big deal for us and we have fun. Hobby wise my photography work is great. What COVID did is it helped me to go back, and do some cataloging of some pictures that I’ve had for years and some things that I’ve done and get back on track with that.
Q: How would you describe your philosophy of life? That is, how do you see this life and what principles get you grounded and moving forward?
A: My dad used to always tell me you may not be the best, but you can always do your best. That’s the philosophy that I bring to the party. Confrontation was my word in 2021, and it’s not a bad word. When you confront situations good and bad to figure out how they happen as opposed to thinking that they just happen. That you believe that you know God has his hand in everything. Nobody is perfect. That if the ceiling tile had a stain it would be easy for me to paint over that tile and make it white again and move on. That doesn’t confront the issue. I have to take the tile down, or have somebody come up, and then go up in, and see where the water is coming address the point of where the condensation is coming from. ‘Cause it’s gonna come back, and it’s gonna happen again. My goal is to be confrontative with things that are going on with, so that I can get to the root of it and try to stop it. Just keep going at it.
I think that the the two other things and I had a conversation with a gentleman today about it was that what you feed your mind will affect what goes on in your heart and your soul. What you put in your mouth is gonna affect the way your body operates and that is important across all ages. You are what you think you are and if you keep thinking negative thoughts that’s what you’re gonna end up acting like it being is in a negative standpoint. If you don’t have self confidence, if you don’t believe in who you are, then that’s the time when you have to really start looking at talking to someone that is in a field where they can help you get a grip and find out what’s going . Confront some of the things that you’re thinking and why you’re thinking like that. Sometimes you let other people affect where you’re going and that doesn’t help you ‘cause they may not even know that they’re affecting you like that. COVID as bad as it was had people watching TV more, listening to CD’s, or listening to things going on that were just being feed things. As opposed to you hope people are doing some more inspirational, or encouragement, or motivational pieces to get moving. Get out and do some things or to help themselves become better. Where they can flush what was in there and start over again. That’s the big piece. It’s to make that happen. Every day when I wake up- it’s taken me a while to get there you know. I like Terry now. It’s easy for me to be the best me when I like me for somebody else than before.
Q. Let us end this interview with a memorable quote from you. How would you describe yourself to the world? Complete the sentence: I am…
A: I’m a good guy. I’m a God fearing good guy. I respect the individual and I respect Terry. That’s all I can expect is respect from people.
The DSU Community is very lucky to have a well-rounded, talented, encouraging and humble individual like Mr. Bankston. His long spanning career and contributions to several fields in the workforce is truly inspiring. To quote Mr. Bankston, “Never say what you’re not going to do. Don’t ever tell yourself what you’re not going to do, because there’s a bigger plan.”