Bernard (’70 business administration) and Bonnie Banks have experienced firsthand the impact of international travel on their worldviews. Their passion for travel combined with their admiration for the Moore School’s emphasis on educational excellence persuaded the Banks to sponsor multiple funds for Moore School students.
The Banks chose to contribute to study abroad opportunities at the Moore School so students could experience other cultures and see how fortunate they may be in comparison. Bernard Banks had never traveled to another country until after he finished college.
“It is a mind-expanding experience to go to a different country and see a different culture and see how other people live, how society is structured compared to our society,” he said.
Bonnie Banks said traveling to other countries is a “tremendous education in itself; it gives you a much bigger perspective on life and the world.”
While they invest in study abroad opportunities for Moore School students, they also provide support for a scholarship. A promised estate gift will provide future support for both. Their generosity comes from their gratitude for having had the opportunity to graduate from college.
Growing up in Saluda, South Carolina, Bernard Banks was raised in an economically modest household; his father didn’t finish high school, and his mother graduated high school and was able to take a college-level six-month business course. Despite their financial struggles, his parents saved enough money to pay for Bernard Banks to attend UofSC to get his business administration degree.
Like her husband, Bonnie Banks was raised in a comparably modest household — her mother finished college, and while he attended, her father was pulled from attending college so he could serve in World War II. Like her husband’s parents, Bonnie Banks’ parents encouraged her to get a college education; she graduated from the University of Georgia, and all of her siblings also went to college.
Bernard Banks worked in corporate lending for First Union (now Wells Fargo) and NCNB (now Bank of America) in both Charlotte, North Carolina, and Tampa, Florida, for more than 30 years. Bonnie Banks initially also worked in a bank, got her MBA and taught at Winthrop University, where she later transitioned into administration.
After they returned from Florida, Bonnie Banks worked for Bellsouth for close to 20 years. He retired in 2003; she retired in 2006. They split their time between their home in Charlotte and a mountain house in Blowing Rock, North Carolina.
Acknowledging the opportunities their college degrees have afforded them, they decided to begin scholarship funds at both of their alma maters — Bernard Banks to the Moore School and Bonnie Banks to the Terry College at the University of Georgia.
While they generously give to their alma maters, they also support a couple of youth programs that help high achievers with limited financial abilities prepare and pay for college.
“We don’t have any children, and we think of all the problems in this country, the biggest problem is kids who want to go to college but can’t go for financial reasons,” Bernard Banks said. “We figured, if we can help them, we consider that our number one priority.”