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Center named for longtime Baltimore educator Samuel L. Banks recalled as teacher, language lover


With multisyllabic tributes and tales told out of school, educators and lovers of language dedicated a city hall of learning yesterday to the late Dr. Samuel L. Banks.

Freshly polished silvery letters now spell out Banks' name on the side of the school system's Professional Development Center, where colleagues from Baltimore, Virginia and Washington recalled the nationally known educator.

During his more than 36 years as a social studies teacher, curriculum writer and administrator, and connoisseur of the English language, Banks pressed colleagues to further their educations while fighting for resources for students.

The 7-acre site, at 2500 East Northern Parkway and chosen by the city to bear his name, holds the school system's training center for teachers, principals and administrators; a technology center; the Stadium School; and other city education programs.

"Dr. Banks helped others, whether they had Lilliputian minds or Herculean ones. He left footprints in the sands of time, seeking truth and working to banish ignorance," said Dr. Elizabeth Edmonds, a retired principal and friend.

Words were his weapons of choice, and friends, family and fellow educators yesterday recalled many of his favorite sesquipedalian (or long) zingers.

He is remembered, Edmonds said, because he understood not only the words but their power: His many letters and essays published in The Sun and elsewhere advanced causes including civil rights and multicultural education. He wrote one of the early Afrocentric school curricula that became national models.

Many former students attended, including Mayor Kurt L.

Schmoke, who at Baltimore City College took a social studies class from Banks.

"He encouraged many of us to pursue public service," Schmoke said.

Schools Superintendent Walter G. Amprey acknowledged that he and Banks often argued in private about the way the school system is run. He now misses those sessions, during which Banks occasionally would pause to define the words he was using before continuing his debate.

Banks died July 19, 1995, at age 64.

"He used to tell us, 'Brighten the corner where you live,' " said Banks' daughter, Gayle Banks Jones. "We hope that as you pass by this building now named for him, that it brightens your day."

Pub Date: 2/24/97

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