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On the Bright Side

June 26, 2014

Professor earns award for work on human rights

A lifelong commitment to human-rights issues helped a SUNY Oneonta professor earn a state award Tuesday.

Dennis Banks, 65, is a professor and secondary education department chairman at State University College of New York at Oneonta. He was selected by the state Education Department’s Board of Regents to receive its 2013 Louis E. Yavner Citizen Award. The award was established to honor Holocaust survivors, scholars of the Holocaust and human-rights issues, and self-taught experts who help to educate students about those topics, according to the Education Department website.

He received the award, in recognition of his work in human-rights education, during a Board of Regents meeting in Albany, according to the SUNY Oneonta media release.

“I was quite honored and humbled,” said Banks, who has taught at SUNY Oneonta for 22 years. He began his career 30 years ago as a high school teacher in St. Augustine, Fla. His work instructing secondary education teachers includes a component on human rights issues, he said, including a full-day workshop taught in the fall.

Such instruction has been part of his teaching for his whole career, he said, and is something he was taught by his parents.

“We all have certain rights ( and responsibilities) bestowed upon us simply because we are human, including such things as respect, dignity and health,” Banks said. “As teaching becomes a more and more complicated task, we cannot forget what is truly important. Test scores will pass, hearts and minds will endure.”

SUNY Oneonta Provost Maria Thompson said “this prestigious honor recognizes the substantial impact of Dennis’ work to bring thoughtful attention to human rights. Especially in our increasingly complex and culturally connected world, this task is more important and perhaps more challenging than ever before.”

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