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Remembering Professor Alex Banks

December 20, 2017

Professor Alex Banks

Dec. 20, 2017

Dear VLS Community,

With a heavy heart I share with you that on Monday, Dec. 18, our friend, colleague, teacher, and alumnus Professor Alexander Banks JD’87 passed away after a spell of illness. Professor Banks was a devoted parent to his two sons, Carter and Cole Banks, with their mother, Sheilagh Smith, also a VLS graduate; a valued member of the VLS community; and from 1995 to 2017, a respected staff attorney at the South Royalton Legal Clinic where he advocated for victims of domestic violence and children. He will be remembered for his commitment to service and dedication to his students and clients, and will be deeply missed.

A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 20, at Vermont Law School. We will share a full obituary once available. Cards of condolence may be sent to Carter and Cole Banks in care of Sheilagh Smith, P.O. Box 121, Chelsea, VT 05038.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Professor Banks’ family, with all of you who worked closely with him at the clinic, and with his many friends among our alumni, the Vermont Bar, and Vermont’s social services community.


Thomas McHenry
President and Dean, Professor of Law at Vermont Law School


In honor of Professor Banks’ contributions to Vermont Law School, we ask alumni, students, faculty, staff, and others to share tributes and memories of their teacher, colleague, and friend. See the submission form at right.


Ted Isoldi:
"I knew Alex as a friend, classmate and attorney. We had a strong group of friends at VLS and enjoyed each other's company as we made our way through law school. Our group was committed to helping those most disadvantaged in the legal system. Post VLS graduation Alex took employment in Mercer County PA working for Northwestern Legal Services. During that time he was most proud of establishing a tenant owned and operated mobile home park, and successfully arguing an unemployment law case before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. We practiced in the same county here in western PA before he returned to VLS to be a professor at the Legal Clinic. He was well liked, kind hearted and a good lawyer. He will be missed by many."

Matt Wiese:
"Like so many others, Alex touched our lives in so many ways. I was privileged to be in his circle of friends, with Charlie, Kathy, Steve, Marie, Ted, Meryln, and others. Studying together, brewing beer, playing sports, and just hanging out together and laughing. Those 3 years at VLS were some of the best years! On graduation day, May 16, 1987 we remember our party at Alex’s house, near the top of a mountain. Rustic but very nice little cabin like home. We all brewed a couple of cases of beer over winter break the semester before graduation and sunk the beer in that icy cold little creek that flowed through Alex’s yard. It was a good day! Although I haven’t seen or talked with Alex in a few years, I will always remember his kind and caring demeanor. It is my honor to be back in Vermont for his memorial at VLS. You will be missed our friend."

Annemarie Woofter:
"I had the privilege of working with Alex as a second year law student at the South Royalton Legal Clinic. Alex both impressed and inspired me - his compassion and dedication to his clients knew no bounds. He worked tirelessly for those he aimed to help; he remains the definition of what a lawyer should be. Even beyond that, he was a loving and caring father—the door to his office was covered in pictures of his sons. He was a great man, and he will be missed."

Clarke Atwell:
"As with so many others, my memories of Alex begin and end with his generous and kind spirit, his self-sacrifice, his commitment to helping others. Alex was always happiest when helping someone else, whether it was his clients' legal problems, building a Habitat for Humanity house, or helping friends with their projects. Alex always took time for others. His death leaves a very large hole in all of our lives. We will never forget him and his generous soul."

Steve Baird:
"Marie and I often talk about ‘our’ VLS days being one of the favorite times of our life together. This man was a big part of what made those days so great (along with Matt and Karen, Charlie and Gillis, Ted and Merilyn and others). So many fond memories- a front-yard football game where Alex tackled Marie, and Marie’s 100-lb malamute tackled Alex back and gave him a shake; the softball game right before graduation that gave Alex a nice black eye to show off at graduation; experiments with brewing our own beer- sometimes successful, and sometimes not; and long evenings laughing, playing Trivial Pursuit, and enjoying the company of a great group of people. Before Marie and I left New England, Alex and I decided to climb all the 4,000 footers in New England together in the winter. We never quite finished, but we made the same mistake every time- climbed hard to get to the summit during the short winter days, and then sat down on the top to eat lunch and enjoy the views. We always ended up shivering and hypothermic on the way down, and never seemed to learn our lesson. Alex came up to Alaska several times after we moved there, and helped me build the house that Marie and I still live in today. Even though we had fallen out of touch in the past few years, I will miss him immensely."

Stephen Mackenzie:
"I went to college with Alex at Bates. Although I did not see him at VLS, I recall when at Bates he wanted to move to Vermont. He was a kind soul, except on the tennis court, and as good a person as I had ever met. He was my first real introduction to Quaker community, and I can only imagine how good a professor he was. He will be missed..... SHM. Tribal Prosecutor, Shoshone and Arapahoe Tribal Council"

Rachael Delehanty:
"The summer after my first year at VLS I was a student clinician at the South Royalton Legal Clinic and had the pleasure to work with Alex on some family law cases. I was inspired by his dedication to his clients and especially the great care he took in advocating for the children whose rights he was appointed to represent by the court. Alex will be sorely missed. My deepest condolences to his family."

Amy Davis '15:
"I didn’t work with Alex directly at the Clinic, but I remember he was ALWAYS doing something. Either working on a project or off to court on another case. He had such passion for his work that it stuck with my from my 1L summer through today. I’m honored to have known him."

Charlie Soltan:
"I haven't been able to write this for a while. Alex and I met about the 1st day of school, August 1984. He's been one of our closest friends since that day. He, along with Matt and Marie taught me the law, along with a big assist from Dean Chase and Professors Willbanks and Stevens et al! As everyone has said, Alex was a kind gentle soul. He was so proud of his boys and it was fun to watch them grow, even if from afar. The memories are so numerous, as was the laughter. I look forward to seeing many of you on the 20th to celebrate a true friend."

Sharon Mee:
"I worked closely with Alex for 20 years and we were both friends and colleagues. He was one of the most compassionate and kind individuals I have ever known. Alex mentored close to a thousand students; represented hundreds of children and domestic violence victims; and helped countless others (friends and neighbors). Alex loved his two boys more than anything else in this entire world, and would speak of Carter and Cole every day. May we always remember Alex as the humble and gentle man he was, and honor those qualities by emulation."

Erik Braghirol:
"I struggle to find the words that even remotely capture the loss of Alex Banks. Alex supervised me during my first and second court appearances. I will never forget his guidance or his kindness. His is to say nothing of his dedication to his clients and access to justice generally. He will be deeply missed."

Andrew Clopman:
"My condolences to the family of Professor Banks, especially his children. I have fond memories of working under him with the Children First program. He had remarkable compassion for clients, who were some of Vermont's most vulnerable and traumatized children. I enjoyed it when he would share his practice experiences while driving around Vermont in his Subaru to visit his clients and attend hearings."

Dana Christensen:
"Professor Banks left a lasting impression on generations of VLS students who would go on to make public service a foundation of their legal practice. Part of that impression may include driving in his car to a hearing somewhere in rural Vermont, talking about the case to calm the nerves of students about to have some of their first real court experiences. I remember him giving me real, candid advice about representing low-income clients that I still think about in my fourth year of being a legal services attorney. His greatest advice to his students was in how he lived his life and approached his work and clients: you got to have heart. May we all hope to give half of what Professor Banks gave to this world."

David Hasbrook:
"Alex was my good friend when we were students at VLS from 1984-87. I talked Alex into playing on Ultimate Justice, the ultimate frisbee team. I even got him to a few tournaments with our team. We had a lot of fun in the mud, rain, sun, and snow. We also played IM basketball in SoRo against other law school teams. Alex was an intense competitor who used to yell "I hate myself" when he made a turnover in basketball. Everyone cracked up at that line. I saw Alex in 2007 when I last visited VLS for a reunion. He was a good man. Best wishes to his wife and children moving forward."

Stephen Salmon:
"I will never forget the passion that Alex had for his clients, he was someone to be admired and learned from and I am honored that I had the chance to have him as a mentor."

Kristen Vrancken:
"I had the honor of working under the purview of Alex while a student clinician at the South Royalton Legal Clinic. This was unquestionably the most rewarding experience I had during my time in law school. Alex served Vermont's most vulnerable with kindness and compassion and without judgement, solidifying the desire within me and countless others to pursue careers in public service. This is a devastating loss to the community. My heart breaks for his family, particularly his two wonderful sons who he was so proud of."

Laura Gillen:
"Alex Banks has always been one of my all time favorite students, alumns, and fellow staff folks at VLS. A truly kind and caring and loving and helpful persons on this earth. A fine father and wonderful person, always willing to go out of his way to be more than helpful and supportive to everyone around him. He will be truly missed."

Susan Apel:
"Dear Alex, former student of mine and valued colleague. Alex was tireless in his advocacy for women and children and countless students were fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from him. Rest in peace, Alex. My condolences to you, Sheilagh, and your two sons."

Adam Necrason:
"Kind. Gentle. Passionate. Selfless. Tenacious. Hardworking. These are just a few of the ways we can remember Alex. We became close swinging hammers building affordable housing for our vulnerable neighbors; Alex was always the last guy on the job and seemed most comfortable doing the backbreaking part of the job for the team. You, my dear friend Alex, helped people lift themselves up in so many ways. You inspired many to fight for economic justice. You showed us what it means to be a humble warrior. I miss you and will always carry you in my heart. Adam Necrason VLS '96"

Alexandria Zafonte:
"Professor Banks was an amazing person who dedicated his life to helping others. He was an incredible mentor, supervising me through my oral argument before the Vermont Supreme Court when I worked at the clinic and helping to nominate me for the Kempner Award. No matter how many times I had already practiced, he never said no to listening to me when I would bust into his office reciting my oral argument. More than a good professor, he was a good friend who cared deeply for others and who put his children above all else. He taught me to never lose my compassion and empathy and use those traits as tools in my legal career. I wish I had more time to get to know him and his boys better. I will miss him tremendously."

Jim May:
"It would be difficult indeed to find a lawyer more committed to his clients, and a father more committed to his children, than Alex Banks. Those of us who worked with him will always remember his many kindnesses, sense of humor, skill and community spirit."

Eric Lopez:
"I will always remember Alex for his fight for those without voice. His kindness, compassion and empathy towards those without the strength to fight for themselves will be greatly missed. Thank you Alex for your amazing service and I hope that your family can find comfort in the many good memories of you. You will be missed."

Anthony Nicastro:
"Class of 87. I will always remember Alex's bright smile and the basketball games the class of 87 participated at the local gym. My deepest sympathy to his family and friends."

Victoria Rosendahl:
"I am saddened to hear of Alex's death. We were in the same year at VLS and often shared a laugh between classes and exams. He is a shining beacon for anyone interested in legal clinic work. The VLS Clinic was the first place he gravitated to and could always be found there anxious to help others. Godspeed, Alex."

Renee Gregory:
"I worked during my time at VLS at the Law Clinic. As a student, it could be intimidating to seek guidance and advice. Alex was such an accessible and helpful practitioner that his guidance was in much demand. He radiated kindness. It was clear that he had very much given himself over to the service of his fellow human beings. A true loss. All my thoughts are with his family."

Pat Parenteau:
"Alex was one of the kindest, most modest and most generous persons I've ever met. A devoted father; a true friend; and valued colleague. A lawyer who epitomized the very best of our profession. He will be sorely missed."