Rice University’s Doerr Institute for New Leaders names new director

Dr. Bernard "Bernie" Banks
Dr. Bernard "Bernie Banks." Photo courtesy of Ron Wu
Bernard "Bernie" Banks. Photo courtesy of Ron Wu

Bernard “Bernie” Banks will join Rice University’s Doerr Institute for New Leaders as its director, effective Jan. 1. He is a noted expert on leadership and organizational change, a sought-after speaker and an Army veteran.

Banks comes to Rice from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, where he serves as associate dean for leadership development and inclusion and clinical professor of management and organizations. He is accountable for leader development integration across the school’s global portfolio of programs and for its community experience initiatives.

“Now, more than ever, the world needs leaders who demonstrate deep compassion, strong moral integrity and extraordinary empathy. Bernie embodies these characteristics and will be a wonderful example for Rice’s developing student leaders,” said Ann Doerr, who founded the institute with her husband, John, both Rice graduates.

A hallmark of the Doerr Institute is its focus on culture and global diversity and inclusion.

"Bernie will empower the entirety of Rice’s amazingly diverse student body to become effective leaders and prepare them to contribute meaningful solutions to the world’s most challenging problems through the transformative work of the Doerr Institute,” she said.

The mission is to elevate the leadership capacity of Rice students — both undergraduate and graduate — across the university. The institute, which is not affiliated with a school or other institute at Rice, develops all students who want to increase their leadership capacity, regardless of age or experience.

“We are grateful to have Bernie join us at Rice and build relationships across campus on behalf of the Doerr Institute,” said Amy Dittmar, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “His breadth of experience and expertise will be invaluable in developing Rice students into global leaders.”

“The opportunity to join the amazing community of scholars and practitioners associated with the Doerr Institute and Rice University is truly humbling,” Banks said. “Their collective commitment to developing ethical leaders intent on making positive contributions to communities and organizations around the globe is awe-inspiring. It is my great hope that our collaboration and dedication to Doerr’s mission results in elevating the state of the art for leader development in educational settings (and beyond).”

Banks retired from the Army as a brigadier general in 2016 after leading the U.S. Military Academy at West Point’s Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership. While at West Point, Banks also directed its Eisenhower Leaders Development Program , which offers officers — primarily captains and majors who have been commanders in military organizations around the globe — the opportunity to pursue a master’s degree in social-organizational psychology through Columbia University.

“Bernie Banks is a wonderful and strategic choice to head the Doerr Institute,” said Everett Spain, U.S. Army colonel, head of the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership at West Point and the parent of a first-year Rice student. “Bernie is visionary, inspirational, collaborative, fun and committed to excellence. He will undoubtedly elevate Rice University’s already remarkable record of deliberate leader development of its students and stakeholders. What an amazing selection for the Rice University community and Houston metro area.”

“He is an exceptional leader of character whose charisma and warmth, scholarly expertise, and decades of experience developing countless leaders across all sectors make him an inspired and perfect choice to lead the Doerr Institute,” said Diane Ryan, associate dean for programs and administration at Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life Sciences.

“Bernie Banks knows and understands leadership education and leader development better than anyone I know,” said Joe LeBoeuf, professor of the practice of management emeritus at Duke University and a retired U.S. Army colonel. “His selection is spot on in demonstrating the Doerr Institute for New Leaders’ continuing deep commitment to its vision of filling our country’s leadership void, by developing the leaders of courage, character and virtue we desperately need. Bernie is a leaders’ leader, a superb educator and an even better person, who fundamentally cares about others over self. He will leave a significant legacy to the faculty, staff and students associated with the Doerr Institute.”

In 2006, the Apache Helicopter unit that Banks led in South Korea was designated the top Apache helicopter unit globally in the U.S. Army’s annual best aviation unit competition. For his actions during Operation Desert Storm, Banks was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, the nation’s fourth-highest award for combat valor. He also earned the military’s prestigious General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award, given annually to 12 early career Army leaders who are competitively selected from over 40,000 eligible officers for their leadership accomplishments. During the Clinton administration, Banks served in the White House as a military social aide representing the service at presidential diplomatic and social functions.

Banks is the founder and principal of Banks Talent Solutions, a boutique firm offering leadership development services. He has worked with Goldman Sachs, Amazon, Facebook (Meta), Procter and Gamble, Mercedes Benz, General Electric, IBM, 7-Eleven, the U.S. Forest Service, the International Chiefs of Police, and many other corporations and nonprofits.

He serves as an independent director for several public and private companies. He is also a member of the original cohort of world-renowned executive coach Marshall Goldsmith’s 100 Coaches project . Furthermore, Banks is a member of the Academy of Management, American Psychological Association, Society for Industrial-Organizational Psychology and Organization Development Network, among other professional affiliations.

Banks earned his Ph.D. and Master of Philosophy in social-organizational psychology from Columbia University. He also holds a Master of Business Administration from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and York University’s Schulich School of Business, an executive diploma from Harvard Business School, a Master of Public Administration from Harvard University, a Master of Science in Administration from Central Michigan University, a Master of Strategic Studies from the United States Army War College, and a bachelor’s degree from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.