Chestnut Hill College Remembers Dr. Grace Banks

Release Date: Friday, May 15, 2009


Grace Ann Banks, Ph.D., formerly Sister Grace Banks, SSJ, professor emeritus of chemistry and physics, died on March 30 at the age of 66. Dr. Banks was a member of the Chestnut Hill College faculty from 1979 until her retirement in 2008.

Rosemary Schierer, SSJ recently reflected on the life of Grace Banks. “Grace was an exceptional teacher. The material she presented was never described as a piece of cake yet somehow she was able to make quantum mechanics and p-chem understandable to her students. As a teacher she was challenging as well as compassionate. Learning is hard work and that lesson was quickly picked up by her students. She was there to help but not to baby. As a result of her approach, our science graduates went into medicine and research confidant and well prepared.”

“Grace was a scientist. Although she was mostly involved with the physical sciences, she had a strong interest in environmental issues and forensic science. She was a practicing scientist who did research and published.
As department chair, Grace brought in top faculty to the College. When our enrollment was down and science majors were fewer in number, she initiated new programs to attract students and strengthened our connections with chemical and pharmaceutical companies in order to provide attractive internships and job opportunities.”

A 2000 recipient of the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching, Grace’s love of science went beyond her involvement with Chestnut Hill College students. In an effort to spark an interest in young minds, Grace became involved in the program, Expand Your Horizons, to interest young girls in science. When Expand Your Horizons first started, Chestnut Hill was still a women’s college and involved with national organizations that encouraged the concept of women in science and the program. The chemistry department continues to sponsor the program and keeps the dream of more women scientists alive.

Dr. Banks was a member of many professional societies that include the American Chemical Society, the National Science Teachers’ Association, the Pennsylvania Association of Scholar Teachers (PASTS), the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Society of Sigma Chi, and Beta Kappa Chi. In later years, she was an active member of her church and the community where she lived.

Dr. Banks earned a B. S. in chemistry from Chestnut Hill College in 1972, and later earned a M.S. (1975) and a Ph.D. (1978), both degrees in chemical physics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Dr. Banks is survived by her father, William J. Banks, her sister, Alice and several nieces and nephews.

Contributions in her memory may be sent to Chestnut Hill College, Office of Institutional Advancement, 9601 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19118.