Banks, Meissen honored by Alumni Association

1:22:59 PM CDT - Thursday, January 29, 2004

By Amy Geiszler-Jones

A key member of WSU's athletics department and a longtime advocate of self-help groups are among those who will be honored at the 48th annual WSU Alumni Association awards banquet Feb. 12 at the Wichita Marriott.

Roland Banks, who has supervised the athletics department equipment operations since 1976, will receive the Laura Cross Distinguished Service Award, and Greg Meissen, psychology professor and co-director of the Self-Help Network: Center for Community Support and Research, will receive the association's Faculty Recognition Award.

Banks, who is better known by Shocker athletes and supporters as "Mr. Banks," "Mr. B" or "Joe," has been much more than an equipment manager in the athletics department. He's been a friend, mentor and confidant for players and coaches through the years. For many athletes, he remains a key connection with their alma mater long after their playing days.

"You couldn't find a better person to represent Wichita State and the athletics department," said Leslie Namee, who played basketball from 1985 to 1988.

Banks, who started working for athletics part time in 1974, while finishing up a 22-year Air Force career, has been recognized previously by the university for his key role: He won a 1995 President's Award for Distinguished Service, and in 2000 he was inducted into the Shocker Sports Hall of Fame, one of the few university employees, non-athlete or coach to be so honored.

Meissen, who earned his undergraduate degree at WSU in 1977, came back to his alma mater in 1980 to join the psychology faculty. Long before self-help and support groups became commonplace, he saw the value of people helping other people. That's why in the mid-1980s, he and a small staff took over a clearinghouse, the Self-Help Network of Kansas, when its founder, a Wichita social worker, sought a more permanent home for the entity. The network is now one of the largest referral services for people seeking support groups.

But the network does much more than make referrals. With Meissen's strong belief that people, not government, can make their communities better, he has worked with various organizations, from federal agencies to nonprofits, to conduct community-based research and to evaluate and coordinate projects that help people live better lives. One such example of his work is a project, conducted with funding from the Kansas Health Foundation, to evaluate nearly 20 community leadership programs in Kansas that are trying to develop "servant leaders."

Other honorees at the banquet will be: Ruth David, a former CIA deputy director for science and technology who now is president and CEO of ANSER, a nonprofit research group, with the Achievement Award; Roberto Cruz, the first president of the National Hispanic University, and cartoonist Jerry Bittle, whose comic "Geech" appeared in 175 newspapers worldwide, with posthumous Achievement Awards; philanthropist Velma Wallace, who along with her aviation pioneer husband Dwane, founded the WSU Wallace Scholars program, and Mike Burrus, president of Kapaun Mount Carmel High School, with Alumni Recognition Awards; and Dr. Sam Cohlmia, clinic director of Wichita Opthamology, with the Young Alumnus Award.

The registration deadline for the awards banquet is Thursday, Feb. 5. Tickets are $35. For more information, call Robin Bauer, 978-3831, or click here.

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