Bookmark and Share
  • Text +
  • Text -

Personal Tributes

To submit your personal tribute for William Banks, please email


I was a psychology major, class of ’73, back when we were BOTH young. Bill was my advisor, and the courses he taught were my favorites – especially cognitive psych (ah, the pandemonium demons!). His energy and enthusiasm were magnetic – he DANCED through 3-hour courses, whirling between the blackboard and the students, engaged and engaging us in the joy of intellectual discovery. It was a wonder to return to Pomona for my 35th reunion and join the dance again, in his aerobics class.
Linda Cook '73

I was surprised and very sad to learn of the death of Professor Banks, who was a really great and memorable professor. He made class interesting and fun, in part because he was offbeat and kept us all on our toes. But the information he passed down to us and the way he grounded us in cognitive psychology was very solid. He always had a smile and gave the sense that class was fun, and that thinking critically and creatively is fun. And he was pretty hilarious in aerobics class, as everyone who took it would remember. It's hard to forget seeing a male professor in tight shorts dancing to the "Monster Mash." As a psychology major, I'm grateful for what he taught me about cognitive psych, and as a Pomona student, I'm grateful for what he taught me about loving learning.

With condolences to Professor Banks' family and the Psychology Department,
Heather Biggar Tomlinson '94

I first encountered Bill Banks when I sent a manuscript about Libet’s work to Consciousness and Cognition. It’s not often that an author becomes friends with a journal editor, but we did. I just liked Bill a lot. He was super-intelligent, funny, we had the same views on all sorts of things. At the time he was writing a novel, as light relief from teaching and wrangling large numbers of papers for ConCog, which he did with unfailing style and sensitivity. The novel was called Hamburger Heaven. I don’t think it ever found a publisher, but the bits I read were full of black humor and meaty goodness. Our correspondence continued and blossomed into co-editorship with Shaun Gallagher of an MIT book called Does Consciousness Cause Behavior? It was great to have Bill’s irreverent humor to keep me sane during that process. Later I stayed at his house a couple of times on my way through LA. He was a generous host and we always had fun.

Bill was born on a farm somewhere in the rural South and though he (inexplicably) tried, he never quite lost the honeyed accent of that region. But he found rural life depressing and escaped as soon as possible to the big city. You could see why – Bill was not a country boy. He loved to drive too fast on the interminable LA freeways – he loved the driving musical and physical beat of aerobics, which he instructed right up until the summer he became ill. He married twice, had two children by first wife Arlene (Joshua Banks and Abby Banks, a photographer who recently put out a book about New York artists and squat dwellers of which Bill was very proud) and adopted two young Chinese girls with second wife Kris. Bill was a good dad to the girls. He was a good friend. He was actively involved in grass roots national politics. He made a huge contribution to consciousness research. In short, Bill Banks was a nice man – passionate, energetic and clever – who lived a good life. I'll miss him.
Sue Pockett

I'm so sad to hear of his passing. He always seemed so vibrant and not so much older than me. He was the head of my major department, my mentor, boss when I did a summer internship when I was able to collaborate with him on a published study in perception. We were the office of the 3 Bills, 2 Carol(e)s, & our few otherwise-named people like me. We had fun, but he was also an inspiration. I enjoyed going back to visit with him on the alumni weekends. I hope Pomona memorializes him in some permanent way.
Michele Matule Cenotto '78

It deeply saddens me to hear the news about Prof. Banks. Being a psychology and dance double major I truly appreciated his animation and costumes relating to the subject matter of the day. His passion shined in EVERY class and there was never a dull moment. He attracted numerous students of different majors across the Claremont Colleges, creating so many unforgettable memories while inspiring us to want more and do more. His class was one I loved more so for him, than the subject material. I will be educating myself on scleroderma so I can help spread awareness. Thanks for EVERYTHING Prof. Banks!!! Rest in Peace and Aerobics.
Danielle Reed '09

Since hearing of Bill's death, I have been struggling to write a remembrance, because I simply don't have the words to express the depth of my sadness knowing that Bill is gone, or the depth of my appreciation for everything that Bill did for me, and for all of his students, during his too-short lifetime.

I have been thinking a lot about Bill lately, and especially today because it is both his birthday and the first day of the annual Vision Sciences Society conference. I am only here at this meeting today because Bill was such a terrific role model, teacher, supervisor, collaborator and mentor during my time at Pomona. Having now had more undergraduate and graduate students of my own than I can remember, I appreciate even more the dedication Bill had to guiding his students through their programs, letting them make their own mistakes, cheering them on when they found success, and helping them find their own voice. Without Bill's support, I would never have done a vision research project during my semester abroad in London; I would never have had the opportunity to work with Bill and one of his graduate students, Robert Lunn, to complete a publishable (but, alas, still unpublished) thesis; I would never have gone to Berkeley to do my PhD in vision science; and I certainly never would have ended up as a professor, teaching in the very same field that I learned from Bill.

Bill taught me science, but he also taught me the importance of work/life balance--he loved his work, he loved his students, he loved Pomona, but most of all, he loved his kids. His office was beautifully chaotic--artwork from his children hanging every which where from the ceiling, and he was always proud to show off the latest masterpiece. He had a sign that summed it all up: "A neat desk is a sign of a sick mind." It was clear that Bill's mind was anything but sick, so I've taken heart that perhaps my own messy desk may be a good thing after all. The chaos was an illusion in any case--any time Bill needed to find something, he knew exactly in which pile to look, and the practice he had in piecing things together in real life was mirrored in his academic life: He was better than anyone at taking in what seemed to be a mess of disjointed, complex information, and synthesizing it to come up with novel approaches to age-old questions.

But Bill was also incredibly modest. He accomplished an extraordinary amount in his own research career, developing new paradigms and helping foster new scientific fields of inquiry, and all of that compounded through the tremendously positive impact he had on the lives of so many students. But he never rested on his laurels, and he always encouraged his students and colleagues to try to go that extra step.

At 12:01 this morning, Facebook prompted me that it was William Banks' birthday. With tears in my eyes, I visited his page, and saw my birthday greeting from last year, and his response. Around this same time last year, I had been invited to give the annual public lecture at the Vision Sciences Society, talking about my research on vision and the amazing, changing, aging brain. Bill's response to my birthday greeting was, "Thanks for the birthday message. Pretty soon I'll be old enough to be one of your subjects. I circulated the announcement of your VSS talk in the department. Very good! I'm sorry now that I decided not to go this year. Thanks also for taking the time when you are getting ready for the talk and all. All the best, Bill." Nearly a quarter of a century after I'd left Pomona, Bill was still cheering me on.

He took so much pride in his students' successes, but he must have known that we could never have succeeded without him, and our greatest pride is in having had the chance to be inspired, mentored and guided by him. I wish he could have lived to be old enough to be one of my subjects. And I wish we could have seen him this year at VSS--there is a tremendous hole at the meeting today. But rather than spend the day wishing for things that could not be, I spent the day remembering Bill, and celebrating his life, because, more than anything, Bill always celebrated life.
Allison Sekuler '86

I was saddened to hear that Bill Banks has passed away. I was a student at Pomona College from 1971 to 1974, and Bill was my all time favourite professor. Undertaking research and writing a thesis under his supervision was a unique and stimulating experience. He allowed me a great deal of freedom in the manner in which I wanted to approach the research, and encouraged me to study the work of early European researchers into perception and cognition. I recall with amusement a visit to his home, where his young son, playing with wooden toys in various shapes and colours, contributed to Bill’s observational research into perception and cognition. He was very supportive in discussing career options, and although I did not continue to focus on psychology in my subsequent studies and work, the subject continues to fascinate me to this day. I will miss him greatly, and will always remember him as an inspirational teacher and mentor. Please pass my condolences to his family.
Gabriele Griesbach ‘74

Losing Professor Banks is tragic, but reading his tribute page made me smile. I, like Janet, remember his habit of hiding the colored chalk behind the clock so that other profs wouldn't use it or walk off with it. And his chalk drawings were legendary. My favorite was his drawing of scoops of ice cream on a barbecue grill to explain the concept of short-term memory. It was an apt metaphor that demonstrated the concept so well that it found a place in the long-term memory of an English major who took only one psych class beyond Intro to Psych.

And I remember well the appearance of absolute chaos that was the desk in his office. I had come to interview him for a piece in The Student Life. I don't remember the question I posed, but he miraculously stuck his hand into the middle of one of the many piles of papers and files and produced the one sheet of paper that had the answer to my question.

He had a great smile that always made me wonder what he was thinking about, and he was usually thinking of something pretty interesting. He will be missed.
Tanya Grove '84

I was sorry to hear of the passing of Professor Bill Banks.I am a 1988 graduate of Pomona, and Professor Banks was one of my favorite professors. Throughout my education at Pomona he was a source of great inspiration, knowledge, advice, and fun. His classes were daunting and tough, but it seemed that he was always on hand to help guide, explain and further any students’ interest. I was also a regular attendee of his immensely popular aerobics classes! Aerobics was the “new” thing back then, and I think I spent most of the classes laughing rather than working out. He was definitely a fun guy! His exuberance for academics and life on campus showed through his dedication to his field and his dedication to his students. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.
Laura Halliburton Lundahl '88

I was very sad to hear about the death of Prof. Banks. Coincidentally, I was just thinking of one of his stories last night. As I was driving home after dark, I noticed an impressive bank of trees in bloom (now that spring is finally arriving in Oregon!) and realized that although they looked white, the blossoms might be pink but I couldn’t tell because it was nighttime. My first semester at Pomona (in 1983), I took Dr. Banks’ Perception and Cognition class and remember him describing the phenomenon of low-light color blindness by reminiscing about when he was in college and woke up one night and looked at his bookshelf next to his bed. While he could clearly see the books, he couldn’t pick out his favorite book with the red cover because everything appeared monochromatic in the moonlight.

That was one of my favorite classes at Pomona and I went on to major in Psychology and ultimately get a Ph.D. in Neuroscience and Behavior. I’ll also never forget the story he told at my Senior Thesis defense about dragging home a dead opossum as a kid, only to discover when he left it on the porch that it was only playing dead! (It actually was relevant to the topic!)

Dr. Banks’ enthusiasm made him a great teacher and although he’ll be greatly missed, he will be long remembered. Please give my condolences to his family. It was a privilege to be one of Prof. Banks’ students.
Kirsten Nielsen '87, Ph.D.

Professor Banks was not only my professor and adviser, but he was also my mother's professor and adviser at Pomona. We both shared fond memories of his classes, which were always a delight with his animated, interactive lecture style and his ability to make complex psychological principals seems so personally relevant. Bill Banks offered guidance and strong encouragement that I will never forget. He will be sorely missed. May his memory live on!
Sara Ball '04

I appreciate receiving communication of Professor Banks' passing and wanted to share a couple of memories of him. I was a psychology major and certainly remember my classes with him, but what I remember most were his intense aerobic sessions. I'll admit that I don't often think of my professors in daily life, but I actually think of him every time I hear Van Morrison because that's what he always played in his aerobics classes. I haven't taken that class from him since 1996, but still to this day I think if him when I hear those songs. I also really appreciate that he was the first person to tell me the name of my visual migraines and explain them to me since he understood the brain so well. That meant a great deal to me since I had been plagued with them for years and didn't understand them. And of course, I'll simply never forget his charismatic and colorful personality.
Katherine McMaster Katz '98

No one except perhaps my mother was as important in getting me through college and into a successful career track as Professor Bill Banks. I doubt I would have ever have earned a college degree without his counseling and skid greasing. And it was while working for him and doing research in his cognitive psychology lab for two years that I earned my first stripes as a computer programmer in scientific research. He always found a way to make things work, whether it was finding me a fun job, digging up a key piece of surplus electronics, or arguing with Pomona's famously tough Registrar Masago Armstrong like no one else could. And despite my letting him down far too often, he was always cheerful to do more.

Bill Banks was always someone I could stay with, confide in, and have fun with. I spent weekends with him in 2002 and 2003 after my college and high school reunions in those years. And those were not the first times. Back when he lived near campus he was always putting someone up, maybe two or three at once. When he wasn't putting people up he was taking them to dinner with like-minded people.

I was hoping to stay with Bill again during my 35th reunion in 2012. I expected to see him looking just like last time. He never changed, always looking young, never slowing down, always doing 20 things at once, but also always having time to take a long walk and talk things over, and never losing interest in whatever was on the top of my mind.

I never realized Professor Banks got into consciousness research also. Funny since I've always been interested in that myself, and yet we never talked about that. We always talked about whatever was on my mind. I mean whatever. That was just the way he always was, he had total interest in me, and I imagine that was how it was for everyone else too. Back in the day, he followed me right into high-end audio, borrowed my copies of Stereophile and The Absolute Sound, and got an ultra-rare pair of Koss electrostatic speakers Every minute was an adventure. More than anyone else, Bill Banks was my father, older (or younger?) brother, and best friend during the most critical times of my life, as well as being my favorite professor, intuitive mentor, and indispensable academic advisor.
Charles Peterson '77

I will never forget sitting down for the first class of Perception and Cognition. Professor Banks was showing a scene from Predator and talking about how the predator sees in infrared, explaining the pros and cons for the Predator's visual system and on what sort of world the Predator would have evolved. The class had so many fun demonstrations of perceptual illusions, I didn't always realize how much I was learning--but I was. His seminar on Consciousness and Cognition led me to pursue graduate studies in social psychology, and I'm hoping to contribute to the field's knowledge of how and why consciousness evolved. He was a great adviser--always available to talk about really cool topics, and always loyal to his students. He was a scholar, a teacher, and a friend. I'll miss you, Bill.
Andy Vonasch '06

I knew Bill for many years from a distance as a colleague in psychophysics, and more closely as a founder of the Association for Scientific Study of Consciousness, on a lawn at the Pomona campus. Part of Bill's lasting legacy is surely the journal he co-founded, Consciousness and Cognition. When I joined the journal as an associate editor, he guided me through the editorial process with patience and wisdom. When Bill became ill I was honored to get his nod to take his place as editor-in-chief. Every time I open the Elsevier website for the journal I think of Bill, who started the journal from nothing and made it prominent. Editing becomes an act of homage to Bill and his accomplishments, one that I execute with pleasure.

Following the Bill Banks blog daily for months was a searing experience--it could happen to any of us, regardless of talents, motivations, or potential future contributions. He never lost his optimism or his quirky humor.
Bruce Bridgeman

Hearing about the death of Professor Banks has made me reflect upon many experiences at Pomona in psychology and aerobics that I have not thought about in quite some time. Professor Banks was an amazing instructor and was brilliant. After a long day of classes and studying I always looked forward to his aerobics classes filled with cool classic rock and his anecdotes about being a cab driver in Baltimore while attending Johns Hopkins. Ironically, I attended Johns Hopkins after Pomona and often thought about Professor Banks and his experiences. He was truly an inspiration. I actually teach an aerobics class now and I use many of the same songs! As all of us know, he had such a great selection of hits. His spirit lives on! I know that many people understand where I am coming from. He will be missed.
Joanna (Jaramillo) Johnson '97

I am deeply saddened to hear the news of Professor Banks’ passing. I thoroughly enjoyed his psychology classes, which were always captivating and full of his eccentric musings and insights. But what has stayed with me even longer are the memories of his aerobics classes. Even now, over 10 years after taking my last aerobics class with him, I can’t hear “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” or “Call Me” without thinking back to that class and how much fun I had flailing around as I mimicked his crazy steps. He put so much heart into that aerobics class – screaming out “FRONT!!!” and “BACK!!!!” as we all careened into each other, or strumming his air guitar with his eyes squeezed tightly closed, or stomping fervently up and down to “Roses are Red”. Even now, when I’ve had a bad day, I turn my iPod to one of the songs he used to play in that class and bounce around my room, using the same steps he taught in that class. He will be greatly missed.
Jennifer (Yates) Kanakry '02

I was so very sorry to hear of Professor Banks’s passing. While I did not have him as a professor in my time at Pomona (‘85-‘89), I had several friends who did, and they always spoke very highly of him. However since 2005, I have been teaching a Tuesday night yoga class at the Pomona Rains Center--the time slot right after Professor Banks’ aerobics class. I really enjoyed our conversations as he was packing up and I was setting up. We reminisced about Pomona in the 80’s, we spoke about my friends that he remembered, and he always had a smile and a kind word. I looked forward to running into him. In fact this year when I didn’t see him I wondered if he had changed the time of his class--I missed his smile and the continuity of those friendly encounters. He is someone that I thought of as a kind soul--the kind you may not know very well, but one that emanates a sense of warmth and humanity. I only learned this news today, and am surprised by the deep affect that it has had on me, despite our brief time together. He is remembered dearly, and missed.
Karen May ‘89

I haven't thought about Prof. Banks in many years, but seeing his picture and reading this news, I'm transported back to the Intro Psych class I took with him back in...1994 or so. And that picture is exactly as I remember him -- that man did not age a day! So, I wasn't a psych major, although I found his class really fascinating. I became a lawyer probably because psych was too much science for me. Where I most remember Prof. Banks was through the gig I got doing work study on campus at his Mac lab. That was a fantastic, pure college experience. Prof. Banks trusted a group of us with the psych dept's own computers used for experiments and trained us quickly on how to troubleshoot a few issues. Ben Hidalgo was my friend and classmate who really earned Prof. Banks's trust and respect, and I got to see an easy and fun side of the Pomona faculty which was what I fell in love with at the school. He cared so much about us and was just generally cool and brilliant all in one. And he was very quick to respond but also understanding/forgiving when, with the birth of the internet and temptations for young students for the first time on their own, some in the Mac lab started to explore parental-free corners of the World Wide Web. Prof. Banks had an amazing sense of humor, dedicated to Pomona and touching our lives and minds -- I am so sad to hear of his passing and know it is a tremendous loss for both his family and Pomona.

Thank you for all you did for me, Professor Banks. You made a difference in my life.
Marilia Zellner '97

Bill Banks was one of the highlights of my time at Pomona. I took all his classes including aerobics and was lucky enough to do independent study with him in my final year. Bill was the real thing. He was so incredibly curious and he conveyed his enthusiasm for the science so effortlessly to his students. His Perception & Sensation classes were loaded with demos, and I remember him getting so excited about the lace veil effect one day that he actually fell off of his chair. He laughed a lot. He got me interested in unconscious processing in my final year, and showed me how to use the tachistoscope in the basement of Mason Lab. He made me feel that my findings were important. I am so very sorry that I won’t get to talk to him again, though I expect that he is bouncing around somewhere else now, pulling stuff out of his pockets, and finding out how things work.
Kathy Rastle ‘92, professor of cognitive psychology

In the fall of 1974, I was a new transfer student to Pomona College. I was newly married and we lived off-campus, so I knew no one. Bill Banks's Perception and Cognition class was my first class. When I tried to speak with him after class he couldn't talk, because he was supposed to be somewhere else, but instead of ending the conversation there, he invited me to follow him to his lab in the basement. He was like a kid in a candy shop there. I even got to watch as Bill Prinzmetal carefully finished setting up Bill's first computer.

I felt a part of Pomona because Bill included me. He sent me home with one of his many files of articles collected on a subject and offered to write an article with me, if I could come up with an idea that would challenge the presiding imagery model for memory.... Please continue reading this longer tribute as a PDF [pdf]
Julianne Flora-Tostado '76

I am deeply saddened by the news of Bill’s passing. The last time I saw him was in Boston in late 2009, at Psychonomics, and at that time he appeared perfectly healthy. The news of his passing was unexpected as I was completely unaware that he had been ill. My condolences go to his family and to others who loved him and knew him well.

As a graduate student, I was first a student and later a TA for Bill’s Perception and Cognition course. Bill was also on my dissertation committee and we published two articles together, one on signal detection theory and memory and another on the teaching effectiveness of his well-known camera obscura class demonstration.

What I admired most about Bill were his qualities of playfulness and curiosity. His sense of playfulness was evident in his inimitable wit and wacky sense of humor (for a while, his e-mail signature read “William Banks, Professor of Aerobics and Evil”). However, he also loved to play with ideas--seemingly for the sheer enjoyment of the process. His sense of curiosity and wonder about the world around him was exciting and infectious, and my interest in all manner of things ranging from lateral inhibition to opera was piqued through my interactions with him. Of course I also learned a great deal about cognitive psychology from Bill and I still remember all kinds of interesting little facts from him that represented the products of his curiosity: Birdsong is lateralized, taking magic mushrooms increases the critical flicker fusion threshold, and that a famous composer, I think Rimsky-Korsakoff, had tinnitus later in life (and it was a high E-flat). I had always meant to catch up with Bill about these little tidbits (maybe it was Shostakovich who had the tinnitus?). I had also considered sitting in on his class one more time just to watch him teach, and to spontaneously disappear into that closet in the corner, hear him make all sorts of racket as he searched for the perfect demonstration, and then pull out that demonstration and then just amaze the students. Alas, those plans will have to remain unfulfilled.

Bill brought life, color, and humor to my graduate school experience, and he made a significant and lasting impression on me in the kind of educator, scientist, and person that I am today. Bill, wherever you are, thank you for all you have done for your students, and for me. You are deeply missed.
Matthew Prull CGU '97

Thank you Bill for inspiring teaching, mentoring, and even letting me sleep in your garage when you were fixing it up. You made psychophysics exciting and lured a math major into psychology.
Dan Wright '87

I am so very sorry to learn about Bill's transition. While attending Claremont Graduate School in the early 1980's (now CGU), I took a class from Bill. It was his Sensation and Perception class. That experience formed the foundation for my evolving world view as a cognitive psychologist. He was a master at teaching the subject and the class was just as much fun as it was challenging.

I recall the "Brown Bag" lunch talks that the CGS Psychology Dept. hosted on Fridays at noon. Bill often attended and usually had something brilliant to contribute to the discussion. But, my focus typically turned to anticipating from what origin were the crumbs he pulled from his pocket to nibble. He treated those little morsels like caviar. It was during that type of moment that my awe of his intellect settled down and I could appreciate the humanity of this great man. With all of his accomplishments, he was approachable. He became an advisor on my dissertation committee and was instrumental in the development of the methods (signal detection paradigm) I used in examining juror memory for evidence.

Later, when I taught as adjunct faculty at Pomona College, Bill became a friend and colleague. I called him the "Ageless Wonder" whenever he walked into the Psych Office after his aerobics class. He was always full of energy, smiled that impish smile and shared his views on politics, the economy and life, in general. He was an intellectual with a generous heart and an explorer's soul.

I know this man influenced thousands of people during his life. To me, he was and always will be the consummate psychologist. I will never forget him.
Linda Meza, Ph.D.

I am so sorry to hear this. Bill was a mentor, employer (NIAAA grant) dissertation committee member and a friend.

We did work together on the development of tolerance to alcohol. He creatively applied his knowledge of sensation and perception to a person's sense of intoxication and came up with a methodology for measuring sense of intoxication. We published an article together with Roger Vogler in the Journal of Alcohol Studies in 1982.

Bill was fun and easy to be around--it was a joy to watch his mind at work. I remember many stimulating sessions with Roger and he, figuring out what our next experiment was going to be.

And his office was a work of art. As we all said, Bill's order was in his mind, not his office.

I will miss him.
Roger Benton, Ph.D.

I graduated in 1978 from Claremont Graduate University and Bill was on my dissertation committee and we published a paper on perception together. I remember him very fondly as being a lot of fun, intellectually stimulating, and extremely emotionally supportive. I am very saddened by the loss although I have not seen him for many years. His family and Bill will be in my thoughts on May 7th although I won't be able to make it to the Memorial Service.
Fortunee Kayra-Stuart CGU '78

I just wanted to say a few words in tribute to Prof. Banks, and am dismayed to hear this news. Because of Prof. Banks' help, I was able to successfully design a special concentration I called the Study of Consciousness. Although my study of consciousness expanded beyond the field of psychology, Prof. Banks was instrumental in providing me with guidance, inspiration and support as my academic advisor. Prof. Banks also rented me a room in his house for a few days when I needed a place to stay. He was a gem in the Pomona Psych department, and I am honored to have been able to work with him. He will be missed.
Sunshine Kessler '95

The world will be eternally blessed by the wonderful contributions Bill has made to our awareness of the human mind. I had the pleasure of teaching hypnosis in Bill's classes and he was so brilliant and kindly. He was eager to teach and just as eager to listen and learn. His loss is sorely felt.
Shelley Stockwell-Nicholas
On behalf of the International Hypnosis Federation

I just heard the news, and it really made me sad. I only took Perception and Cognition from him, but he left a lasting impression on me and I can say he was one of my favorite teachers. I wish I had known him better. Rest in peace Professor Banks!
Adriana Kovashka '08

I am so saddened to hear that Bill Banks has passed away.  My relationship with him was one of the most formative aspects of my time at Pomona.  I was lucky enough to have both research and teaching assistantships with him.  He certainly influenced my development as a psychologist, and although I have gone into a career of clinical rather than cognitive psychology, his perspective has always stayed with me.  He had a mind that made connections between seemingly unrelated pieces of data, and a creativity of academic thought that I found exhilarating.  He bucked the rules -- drilling a hole in a door in Mason Hall every year to turn a whole classroom into a "camera obscura," getting yelled at when the facilities department had to fix it -- and then doing it again the next year.  He was that rare bird who is both a great teacher and a great academician.  He was just a rare bird in general.

My memories of him are mostly personal rather than academic, however.  I remember how his office was always in chaos and I tried to help him organize it -- he thought I was a neatnik until he actually visited my dorm room!  He had a "separated at birth" photo of him next to Joe Isuzu -- I guess that dates both of us.  I remember my friend Caroline Dees ('92) going to his aerobics class around Halloween and coming back with a wild imitation of him dancing (flailing?) to "Monster Mash."  He taught me to appreciate gin-and-tonics.  He called his car "Sammy" and argued with Sammy, who insisted that "the door is a jar."  "No, the door is a door," bellowed Bill.  He made me laugh, and he taught me a lot.

Pomona has lost someone special, and so have I.
Stephanie Schwartz, '92

Professor Banks was by the far the most ENTHUSIASTIC aerobics instructor I've had! I'm not sure if I got more exercise from doing the moves or from laughing at his outbursts and funny faces. The class and his antics never grew tiresome, nor did I ever stop marveling at what good shape he was in. I'll never forget that class, or the most dynamic instructor on the planet. If I ever become an aerobics instructor, I will dedicate my routines to his memory.
Alissa Sanchez '09

It was a huge pleasure to know Professor Banks, both in and out of class, and I'm depressed to suddenly hear of this news just now and know that I will never be able to talk to him again. He was a charming person to listen to or chat with--so diversely knowledgeable, down-to-earth, funny, exuberant, inventive and supportive. And an awesome storyteller. R.I.P. Professor Banks, you are very much missed.
Micah Johnson '10

Bill Banks was the best professor I ever had, a supportive mentor, a faithful friend, and a fine man. Other tributes on this site attest to his sense of humor as well as his skill and knowledge as a teacher. But Bill also had an amazing talent for inspiring originality. Somehow, in his seminars and lab groups, he accepted certain ideas and rejected others without ever making us feel that we or our ideas were being judged. The result was a flood of creativity that sparked the careers of countless cognitive scientists. Bill created a sense of camaraderie, an openness and warmth, that I have never experienced elsewhere in 30 years of academic life.

I will remember Bill’s colored chalk hidden behind the clock in his Perception & Cognition classroom and the Banks Masterpieces he drew on the board to illustrate neural wiring diagrams, hemispheric lateralization, and signal detection theory. I will remember the tower of electronics that ran his tachistoscope in the basement lab below Mason Hall, three happy years as his teaching assistant, and the old RV he used to haul out for summer vacations. I will remember his personal and professional encouragement, his notes of support and invitations to participate. I will remember his strength and courage in fighting for his life in the spring of 2011. Bill taught me so much about cognition, teaching, research, and writing, but in the best tradition of liberal arts education, his implicit lessons about life were even more powerful.
Janet Jones '84

I was very fortunate to work with Bill on the Academic Procedures Committee for a few years. I thought he was amazing--so perceptive and thoughtful, kind but discerning. I will miss him very much.
Margaret Adorno, registrar

We have lost a truly inspirational and influential member of the Pomona College family. Since Professor Banks began teaching at Pomona College in the '60s, generations of Pomona College students have had the pleasure of experiencing the wit and charisma that he brought to his classes and the college community as a whole. As a prospective student, I attended his engaging Perception and Cognition class with my sister Susan ’02, as well as his infamous aerobics class; his energy and enthusiasm was contagious! I eagerly began my education at Pomona with the psychology department, taking Per Cog as a matriculated student and working alongside Bill as a psych major and student-faculty liaison to the psych department. I will never forget his smile, the confidence that Bill had in the value of my research and how he urged me to get my senior thesis on racial profiling in airports published. Now that he is no longer with us, despite having changed careers, I am inspired to re-open that chapter of my life and take Bill’s advice. I only wish I could see the smile on his face when he sees it finally in print.
Sharon L. Ostermann '06

I'm saddened to have to say goodbye so soon. It was an honor and a privilege to have had Bill as a mentor, a guiding light, an "academic father," and more importantly, a friend.

As you know, Bill always had a passion for the arts and sciences. Among many things, he was very involved in the installation of James Turrell's SkySpace at Pomona--an artistic structure crafted based on the science of light. The brightest star shining through the SkySpace will now and always remind me of Bill.
Eve A. Isham, UC Davis

Professor Banks was an amazing professor who inspired a lot of people who couldn't have cared much about cognitive psychology with his amazing, hilarious, and slightly crazy demos. He personally helped me obtain my first research assistantship at Berkeley and only two short years ago wrote me a letter of recommendation for graduate school. Pomona will have a huge gap to fill now that he is gone.
Alejandro de la Vega '09

I have fond memories of taking both psychology and aerobic classes taught by Professor Bill Banks in the late 80s. One of the things that amazed me was that many years later during a visit to campus he remembered me as a student of both. I appreciated his energy and enthusiasm. So sorry to hear of his passing and my best to his family.
Barbara Sullivan '88

I took Memory and Learning from "Banks and Burke" during my freshman year. I was amazed to hear him giggle when one of his demos amused him. I don't remember the demonstration, but I remember the laugh. He had a wonderful spirit, a brilliant mind, and a really fun aerobics class.
Lori McBride Michno '88

Bill was maybe, without exaggeration, one of the most broadly intellectually curious people I've ever met. No matter what the topic was, he was always interested in understanding it, working to the underlying causes. Even bumping into him in the hallway, we'd get into fascinating conversations. He also had a great sense of humor, always a real pleasure to be around, and will be greatly missed.
Robert Thornton, research associate, Linguistics and Cognitive Science

No one will ever achieve the same environment of liberation, splendor and silliness that Mr. Banks created in the Intermediate Aerobics class. The spandex, screaming (of directions, and to Jimi Hendrix), "Roses" dance, "Cheeseburger in Paradise," chasing us during the "cool down," inevitable 15-minute delay before we started, mat work, are all a tribute to the professor, legend and dear friend, William Banks. He will be dearly missed by all former Aerobaticians.
Sarah Buchman '09

Professor Banks was always engaging in the classroom, but my favorite memories of him will be of the screaming, legging-clad aerobics guru who managed to make a pretty serious workout feel like playground fun. To me, he's the kind of professor who exemplified what made Pomona so great. He was a reader for my senior thesis, and I remember learning about the Stroop task and watching scenes from Predator in his class. But my favorite Bill Banks quote was his response to my request that he teach an aerobics class upon his visit to the Pomona program in Prague in the winter of 2002: "I'll bring my tapes and tights." My heart goes out to his friends and family and the Pomona community that was made so much richer for having Bill Banks among its ranks.
Sara Bernstein '03

One of my very first cognitive science classes was with Professor Banks. He used all sorts of surreal classroom demonstrations. It was truly mind-altering! And I'm about to finish my PhD in cognitive science, so he was a big intellectual influence for me. My thoughts go out to his family and friends.
Natalie Klein '04

I'm Studying abroad in Kenya and I just heard about William Banks and it saddens me greatly. He was a great professor and was the one who introduced me to psychology. I took every class he taught and was waiting for him to return to take more. There are no words to categorizes his aura and especially his unique manner of laughter. I send my condolences. Perception and Cognition wouldn't have been the same without stories of his children and quirky ways. Forever grateful to have been one of his learners.

Rest in Peace, Good Sir Banks (he'll understand)
Salif Doubere '12

Professor Banks’ aerobics class was much like the man—funny and so full of energy I could barely keep up. I will never heard the song “Cheeseburger in Paradise” without thinking fondly of him. He will be missed.
Patience Boudreaux, associate director of annual giving


Social Media