SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Each year for the past 14 years, South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities (SCICU) has honored an outstanding professor from each of its 20 member schools. Dr. Kenneth J. Banks, associate professor of history, was shocked and thrilled when he learned that he was Wofford’s selection as the 2019 Excellence in Teaching recipient.
“I think the last time that I had been awarded something, I was a Cub Scout,” Banks jokes.
Banks, who received his master’s and Ph.D. from Queens University, had a late start coming to his love of history and teaching.
“I did not take my first history course until I was 31 years old,” he says. After working in the film and advertising industry for a number of years, which left him unfulfilled, he started taking night classes in history.
Since obtaining his doctorate, Banks has completed fellowships at Harvard University, the Gilder Lerhman Institute, the American Antiquarian Society and the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University. He wrote an award-winning book, “Chasing Empire Across the Sea: Communications and the State in the French Atlantic,” and taught at six different higher education institutions.
In 2009, Banks came to Wofford College from the University of Ottawa. His courses share an abiding concern with the challenges of integration, cooperation and violence between peoples in motion. Some of these courses include Atlantic revolutionary eras, global histories of slavery and piracy and the peoples of Sub-Saharan Africa.
“While he contributes to ongoing discussions in a variety of departmental and campus-related issues, above all, Ken loves teaching and advising students at Wofford,” says Dr. Mike Sosulski, provost. “He always seems to have a student in his office, and more often than not, they are pouring over an essay honing the student’s writing and analytical fundamentals.”
The winners of SCICU’s Excellence in Teaching Award are collectively celebrated at a dinner and receive a grant of $3,000 for professional development. Banks says getting to know the other award recipients from across the state was one of his favorite parts about winning the award.
“Hearing about the accomplishments and what the other winners are doing gave me the motivation and knowledge that I could do more as well,” he says. Banks is currently working on his second book, which will be about Atlantic smuggling.