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The School of Education Community Remembers Cerri Banks, 1967-2022

The School of Education lost a dear friend, colleague, and leader in August 2022. Cerri Banks ’00, G’04, G’06 was a three-time SOE alumna, Chair of the Board of Visitors, a member of the Board since 2009, and Syracuse University’s Vice President for Student Experience and Deputy to the Senior Vice President. Below, those who knew and cherished her offer their thoughts … 

Cerri BanksCerri Banks Obituary

Cerri was a student in the course I taught in my first semester at Syracuse, 24 years ago. I have been inspired by her scholarship and her administrative contributions ever since. I was particularly grateful for her staunch support during the last year, as I assumed the interim deanship. She was a key partner in our School-wide redesign work intended to secure our impactful, sustainable future.

No one has been a better advocate for SOE in recent memory—or a better example of the values we seek to uphold.

—Interim Dean Kelly Chandler-Olcott

We have lost an amazing colleague. It is devastating and unimaginable, but it brings up lots of other feelings for me. Cerri was a doctoral student in the School of Education when I started in the program. She was a little bit ahead of me, but we worked together as fellow teaching assistants in my very first semester. I didn’t know what I was doing. I wasn’t even sure I belonged there—everyone else seemed smarter and better prepared than I was. But Cerri made me feel like I was exactly where I needed to be.

All along her own path, she wasn’t sure she was undergrad material, or master’s material, or Ph.D. material. But she was and so was I and so are so many other people who never have the opportunities or support that I have had. I will always be grateful to Cerri for helping me find my place at SU, a place I have never left.

So I will honor her by trying to practice radical inclusion and mentoring all the folks who come behind me—just like she did. Rest in power, Cerri.

—Christine Ashby, Professor and Director, Center on Disability and Inclusion

“Her authenticity, shared vulnerabilities, warmth, and treatment of each person she interacted with dignity, respect, and validation left you wanting more time, yearning to learn more from her, and inspired to be more like her.”

For over two decades, I had the privilege to develop a deep personal and professional relationship with Cerri. I believe she considered her SOE roots and her scholarly pursuits as the most salient, important aspects of her professional identity.

Shaped by a deep sense of pride in her family roots and life experiences, Cerri’s deepest commitment was to be a champion for students. She was a mentor, advocate, and cherished companion to countless students, at all hours of the day and night. I also was constantly in awe of her unique gift to communicate complex, challenging theoretical, intellectual, and potentially polarizing ideas, particularly around diversity, equity, and social justice, in accessible, compelling ways to such a wide diversity of audiences (e.g., students, faculty, senior administrators).

Her authenticity, shared vulnerabilities, warmth, and treatment of each person she interacted with dignity, respect, and validation left you wanting more time, yearning to learn more from her, and inspired to be more like her.

It breaks my heart that I do not have that time, but I am not short on material to reflect upon and still learn from her to be a better human. We all will deeply miss her wisdom, grace, patience, vibrant spirit, creativity, loyalty, sense of humor, and that beautiful, boisterous laugh. Most of all, I will miss my friend.

—Cathy McHugh Engstrom, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Higher Education

Compassionate. Authentic. Brilliant. These are just a few words that come to mind when I think of Cerri. Whenever in her presence, she made you feel that you were important and you mattered.

Years ago, I remember Cerri calming my nervousness as I neared the end of my dissertation process. She let me know I had what it took to finish. Cerri, Paul Buckley, and I were all advised by Dr. Sari Biklen, and we cherished that connection. Cerri was a brilliant scholar and masterful higher education administrator. The impact she had on the lives she touched will live on forever.

Cerri A. Banks, Ph.D. … a phenomenal woman.

—Don C. Sawyer III G’03, G’08, G’13, Vice President for Equity, Inclusion, and Leadership Development, Quinnipiac University