Dean Richard B. Hays has announced that the Rev. Donna Banks will join the Divinity School as director of student life effective July 1, 2011.
“Donna Banks brings a unique combination of gifts and experience to the leadership of the Office of Student Affairs,” said Dean Hays. “She is a highly respected pastor in the North Carolina Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, has extensive experience in strategic planning as a corporate manager, and she is an alumna of the Divinity School.”
The landscape of theological education, particularly in United Methodism, is shifting dramatically, added Dean Hays, George Washington Ivey Professor of New Testament.
“In addition to fulfilling the traditional duties of the director of Student Life, Rev. Banks will be essential to the expansion and deepening of the school’s Mentoring for Ministry program.”
Mentoring for Ministry provides resources for students as they discern their ministerial vocations within and beyond the local church. Research Professor of Evangelism and Methodist Studies W. Stephen Gunter, who served on the search committee that selected Banks, said she will play a key role in strengthening the school’s already strong emphasis on mentoring leaders for parish ministry.
“Rev. Banks will assist with events focused on call, ordination, and ministry placement, and she will be a key player in strategic planning on how to integrate Mentoring for Ministry into multiple dimensions of student life,” he said. “As associate dean for Methodist Studies and faculty director of Methodist House, I look forward to working with her.”
Associate Dean for Black Church Studies and Church Relations Joy Moore also served on the six-member search committee.
“Rev. Banks understands Duke, understands the United Methodist connection, and understands the demands of parish ministry,” said Moore, visiting assistant professor of homiletics and the practice of ministry.
“A bonus is the maturity she brings as a recent second career student—wisdom from her previous profession combined with fresh knowledge of the student experience at the Divinity School. She demonstrates a healthy balance of work and life, a sense of attention to God’s call, and the ability to articulate the importance of the church and Duke Divinity’s call to form leaders of the church.”
Moore also expressed confidence in Rev. Banks’ support for Black Church Studies. “She complements the institution by increasing its racial and gender diversity, something that not only our students need to experience, but our community needs to see.”
Banks earned the B.S. in chemistry at Birmingham-Southern College, Birmingham, Ala. She worked as a research chemist before moving into sales and marketing management with Reichhold Inc., a multinational plastics material and resin manufacturing firm in Research Triangle Park, N.C.
She was accepted into the master of divinity degree program in 2001 as a special student and earned her degree in 2006. She is currently senior pastor at Evergreen United Methodist Church in Chapel Hill, N.C., a position she’s held since 2009. Prior to that appointment, she served as associate pastor of Christ United Methodist Church, also in Chapel Hill, for three years.
“I look forward to being a part of the Duke Divinity School family and engaging with students, faculty, and staff to continue to create an environment for vocational discernment and formation of students for ministry,” said Banks. “I truly valued my experience at Duke, and I want to help students gain the most out of the unique opportunity they have been given.”
With experience in a corporate environment and in parish ministry, Banks is confident that her skills and knowledge that will be valuable in her new role.
“There is no better place than seminary to begin cultivating student leadership for ministry within and beyond the local church,” she said.