A great sense of humor, a strong belief in the value of education, and a role model for children — these are three of Jess Banks’ most admirable qualities.
Born on a farm west of Sentinel, Jess graduated from Port High School in 1942. He joined the army in 1946, serving in Korea for two years.
Jess entered Oklahoma A & M College in 1948 and married Melba Lankford the same year. He graduated in 1951 and they moved to Granite, Oklahoma, where Jess taught vocational agriculture. Phillip, their first child, was born in Granite in 1952. Their second son, Ron, was born in 1953.
Jess and Melba moved to a farm west of Granite in 1962, the same year their third son, Jeffrey, was born. Jess enjoyed raising cattle and was a farmer at heart. He moved his family to Stillwater in 1967 when he became the state coordinator of the Employment and Training Division for the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education.
Jess provided leadership for the CareerTech Skills Centers until his retirement in early October 1985. His leadership provided motivation for teachers, and his administrative skills helped make the effort of implementing new programs or methods a smooth transition. His “can-do” attitude was as contagious as his wide, unforgettable smile.
Under Jess’s leadership, the Skills Centers achieved national recognition for providing quality, competency-based, open-entry/open-exit training. He strongly believed that teachers were the most critical part of the instructional process.
Jess had leadership roles in other professional associations, including serving as vice president of the National Manpower Training Association in 1976. Jess also supervised several new initiatives, such as the Tractor Driving Safety Program and the Displaced Homemakers Program.
He always had time to work with fellow staff members although his plate was always full. One co-worker said that Jess worked extremely hard and expected the same from his staff, but he created such a pleasant environment that you never minded. “His laughter was a tonic for all who knew him. He was the best boss a person could ever have.”
Mr. Banks was inducted to the CareerTech Hall of Fame in 1995.