Sarah D.C. Banks, a retired college educator and administrator who was one of the students who desegregated Western High School, died Feb. 10 from cancer at her Columbia home. She was 77.
“She was my mentor when I first came into higher education at Temple University, when I took a job working with her,” said Pamela A. Gallimore, an administrator at the Community College of Philadelphia and adjunct faculty member at Delaware County Community College.
“She was just an extraordinary woman and a visionary who was before her time. Before that word — mentoring — was used, she gave encouragement and supported our careers. She was director of admissions at Temple at that time, which was pretty extraordinary,” said Ms. Gallimore, who lives in West Chester, Pa.
“She gave other women opportunities and was always a person you could go to,” she said. “She wanted you to excel. She had integrity and always put the students first because she wanted them to achieve their goals.”
Laura S. Reddick, associate director for adult and veteran recruitment at Temple, said Dr. Banks hired her in 1989 and worked with her until 2003.
“She was always my mentor and the most brilliant woman I ever met in my life,” said Ms. Reddick, who lives in Philadelphia. “She was always there for me professionally and personally. I was truly blessed that God chose her to be a part of my life.”
Sarah Delores Cousin was the daughter of William Cousin, a Baltimore & Ohio Railroad car cleaner, and Mamie Cousin, a homemaker. She was born in Baltimore and raised on Fulton Avenue.
She was a 1958 graduate of Western High School and one of three African-American students to desegregate the school, family members said.
She entered what was then Morgan State College, from which she obtained a bachelor’s degree in 1962 in mathematics and was inducted into the Promethean Kappa Tau honor society.
From 1962 to 1968, she taught math at Booker T. Washington Junior High School and was on the faculty at Harlem Park Middle School from 1968 to 1969.
In 1969, she completed a master’s degree in math, also at Morgan, and spent the next 15 years as an administrator and math teacher at Rutgers University in Camden, N.J., and as a curriculum specialist and director for the New Jersey State Department of Education.
She received a doctorate in math from Rutgers University and the next year began an 18-year career at Temple University, where she held a variety of positions.
Dr. Banks served as director of the Philadelphia school’s Special Recruitment and Admissions Program and had also been acting director of undergraduate admissions, vice president for administration at the Health Science Campus and associate dean of the graduate school.
“It was her brilliance and talent that turned the admission office around and took it to the next level. It was her interest in recruiting minorities that made the university a more diverse place,” Ms. Reddick said.
“Sarah was outgoing and warm, but as a professional, was no nonsense. She was a small woman … but she was a very powerful woman,” she said. “She was always organized, got things done. If you worked for her, she didn’t allow people to fail.”
Ms. Reddick credited Dr. Banks with seeing things in people they didn’t see in themselves.
“I didn’t realize that I was a diamond in the rough, but Sarah pushed me,” she said. “She saw abilities and qualities in me. I llike to talk a lot and in meetings I’d come up with a lot of ideas. If you said something, Sarah would say that you owned it and she made you execute it.”
Dr. Banks retired from Temple in 2003, but returned to work that fall as acting admissions director at the Community College of Philadelphia.
Two years later, she returned to Maryland and settled in Columbia and joined the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where she was an administrator and an adjunct faculty member in the university’s Department of Education.
After leaving UMBC, she was an administrator at Baltimore City Community College until retiring in 2010.
While living in Mount Laurel, N.J., Dr. Banks served on the boards of the Division of Youth and Family Services in Trenton, and the YWCA in Camden.
She was a longtime member of Links Inc., a volunteer organization “committed to enriching, sustaining and ensuring the culture and economic survival of African Americans and other persons of African ancestry,” according its mission statement.
Dr. Banks had been president of the South Jersey Links and an active member of its Columbia chapter. She was also a member of her condominium association in Columbia and was a volunteer at the Waxter Senior Center in Baltimore.
“I think her biggest hobby was serving with the Links,” said her daughter, Kennette Alysia Banks of Brooklyn, N.Y.
Dr. Banks also enjoyed hosting gatherings for family and friends, reading, exercising and travel.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Howell Funeral Home, 10220 Guilford Road, Jessup.
In addition to her daughter, she is survived by her husband of 49 years, Kenneth Banks, a Camden pharmacy owner; three brothers, Sydney L. Cousin Sr. and David A. Cousin Sr., both of Columbia, and Thomas Cousin Sr. of Waldorf; a sister, Elise Gray of Virginia Beach, Va.; and several nieces and nephews.