Arthur S. Banks, professor emeritus of political science, diesTweet
Arthur S. Banks, 84, professor emeritus of political science, died Monday, April 25, at his home in Shirley, Mass. Banks taught at Binghamton University from 1968 until his retirement in 1996, serving as department chair for several years, director of the Center for Comparative Political Research (subsequently the Center for Social Analysis and the Center for Education and Social Research) and editor of the Political Handbook of the World.
Banks earned his bachelor’s degree from Cornell University, and master’s and doctoral degrees from George Washington University. Prior to joining the faculty at Binghamton, he taught at George Washington University, the universities of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and Indiana University.
Michael McDonald, professor of political science, said Banks provided invaluable departmental leadership.
“Arthur was able to keep things moving forward, despite personality or other sorts of clashes and differences, because he had everyone’s respect,” McDonald said. “People − faculty and students − knew that whatever he did he had the the interest of the department and the University as a top priority. Nothing for him was a matter of personal gain or personal privilege when it came to life at the University.”
When Professor David Cingranelli joined the Department of Political Science in 1978, Banks was already a long-serving member of the University. “He was just a very important contributor to the teaching, administrative and research missions of our department,” Cingranelli said. “During the time he was chair, a great deal of collegiality was created in the department that continues to this day. He was important in establishing the norms of the department that kept us working together in a constructive way.”
With an incredible work ethic, Banks was known to be the first in the office each morning, and the last to leave at night. ”Except for about two weeks a year, he was in the office every single day between 7:30 and 8 in the morning, home at 4 and back at 6 to stay until 8 or 9,” McDonald said.
“The time he spent in and around his office was remarkable,” Cingranelli said. “I can’t ever remember being in the department when he wasn’t there. His career was his life and our department was the beneficiary.”
Called a pioneer in the use of computer analysis of data by political scientists, Banks enjoyed widespread international acclaim for the Cross-National Time-Series Data Archive, which he launched in 1968 and continued to update until his death. “He was a half-generation ahead of the curve in terms of his analytical approach to the discipline of political science,” McDonald said.
Until recently, Banks also remained a senior editor of the Handbook, his nearly 40-year stewardship representing one of the most impressive editorial tenures the reference world has seen. “He developed much of his academic reputation as someone who did large-scale global comparative studies of politics and from that he decided to produce a book,” Cingranelli said. “And he often did it without much staff, yet provided very good oversight. He edited every word.”
Banks’ ashes were scattered on his 84-acre estate (called Farandnear), which he donated to the Massachusetts Trustees of Reservations to be maintained in perpetuity as a public arboretum and system of hiking trails. He is survived by his sister, Shirley Sloane (Garberville, Calif.), four nieces, and a nephew. No memorial arrangements have been made as of this time.