When Wanda Polk Bankhead ’79 talks about her Ship experience, she is quick to talk about all of the people she got to know along the way. In fact, she even breaks out in song about it.
“You know that song, ‘Getting to know you, getting to know all about you’? That’s what college is all about. It’s a process. It’s a growth mode. It’s the beauty of getting to know different people,” she explained.
And forty years later, she’s still getting to know different people as a dedicated alumna.
In 1975, after Milford Pittman ’65-’71m,assistant dean of admissions at Shippensburg University, visited her high school, Bankhead decided to apply to Ship.
“I came for my interview with my parents, and I loved it,” she said.
As a student, in the then ACT 101 program (now the Academic Success Program), Bankhead quickly became engaged on campus as a behavioral management major in the College of Business, an active member of the Afro-Am organization, and Delta Sigma Theta.
All of these experiences connected her with different people who impacted her in their own unique ways. When asked about her favorite professor, she couldn’t pick just one.
“I loved all of my professors and my experiences with them,” she said.
But one person at Ship did stand out for Bankhead and that was Dr. Elnetta Jones, the retired dean who oversaw a variety of academic support programs including ACT 101. Jones passed away in 2016, but her legacy lives on with alumni like Bankhead.
“She really got to know you and who you were as a person,” Bankhead said.
Bankhead even remembered a moment when she realized just how well Jones knew her. Shortly after hearing the news that a family friend had passed away, Jones casually passed Bankhead walking across campus one afternoon. She later appeared at Bankhead’s dormitory door looking concerned.
“She asked ‘Wanda, I had to come check on you. Are you ok?’ She knew me so well she noticed I was upset, just by walking past me,” said Bankhead.
With the support of Jones, faculty, staff, and her fellow students, Bankhead graduated and found a career in the insurance industry. She dedicated thirty-one years serving in various leadership roles with Allstate Insurance.
She raised three sons, retired to Middletown, Delaware, with her husband Charlie, and is now the proud grandmother of four grandsons.
She also dedicates her time to service as a volunteer in various community and church organizations, a priority she said was instilled in at her at Ship.
“Giving back was something that was fostered in me as a student. We didn’t just go to class, we served,” she said.
And that commitment to service always leads her back to Ship.
“Dr. Jones would have us come back to speak to students and share our stories. I’ve also served on the Alumni Board, was the president in 2004, and I now serve on the SU Foundation Board of Governors,” she said.
She loves to reunite with her Delta Sigma Theta sisters and return for the HOPE Diversity Scholarship event, Alumni Weekend, and Homecoming. She’s especially proud of the ACT 101/Academic Success Program Scholarship she helped Jerome Dean ’82 establish.
And she is still getting to know people at Ship as she shares her story with students, connects with alumni at events, and visits her favorite spots on campus.
“I have the same feeling every time when I see the exit for Shippensburg University. I get this wonderful feeling, and I always want to drive past Old Main. There’s something about that, and that feeling never goes away,” she said.