Longtime employee retires

Beloved Equipment Manager Tom Bane may be retiring, but his impact on students will never be forgotten

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Ellen Kanzinger

Thomas “Baner” Bane. Photo by Ellen Kanzinger ’18.

Alex Niemann

After more than 40 years at W&L, longtime equipment manager Thomas Bane is ready to hang up his boots and move on.

Known fondly as “Baner” by thousands of students both past and present, he was honored before the start of the football team’s 52-33 win over Catholic. The game crowned the Generals ODAC champions. Bane was also given the number one jersey by the football team after the game.

It was a fitting sendoff for a man who has lent W&L students his undying kindness and compassion for nearly half a century. Bane officially announced his retirement on Nov. 6.

A cookout ensued after the game, where Bane was surprised by numerous former students and parents he had befriended over the years. Friends and football players ate barbeque and reminisced.

For most of the affair, Bane found himself surrounded by his ecstatic players and the multitudes of people he had helped in his decades long career, all clamoring to congratulate and thank him.

Yet for all the students and parents who came to honor Bane on Friday, countless more had been impacted by him over the years.

Bane has worked a variety of positions besides equipment manager since his arrival at the university in 1972. Most notably, he served in security and as a traffic coordinator, during which time he assisted a multitude of students with every problem ranging from needing a sober ride home to needing a warm ride to the grocery store on a cold winter’s day.

By consistently going above and beyond his job description, Bane quickly became much more than just a traffic coordinator to W&L students and their parents.

“He cares about every student at this school as if they were his own children,” said Lee Hight, whose daughter Mary Hight graduated from W&L in 2000. “If Mary had a problem with anything, if she couldn’t get something done in the dorms, she couldn’t get her luggage up or whatever, Baner came to help.”

Being there for students regardless of the circumstances became something of a trademark for Bane, who rapidly developed a reputation for being “a dad away from home” to many.

For students, he was a lifeline and a consistent source for support and assistance. For parents, he was a reason to have peace-of-mind while their children were off at school.

“He enabled us to sleep at night,” said Rita Matthews, whose daughters graduated from W&L. “We knew he would be here for them if they ever needed help and we couldn’t be there.”

The abundant things Bane did to reach a special place in the hearts and minds of so many students and parents were far from a burden to him. For Bane, the students at W&L meant the world to him. He answered calls for help late at night because he genuinely cared about the students who needed him.

Whether it was working in security or being the equipment manager for the football team, Bane found a way to make his work his purpose in life.

“[The football team], and all the other kids I dealt with when I was the traffic coordinator have made me who I am today,” Bane said.

Bane also credits his mentor, former head of security Charles Murray, known to Bane as “Murph,” with teaching him how to be the figure he’s been to the students of W&L.

“You gotta have people that are out there to help you when you’re in need of help, and Murph taught me well to do that,” Bane said.

Whether by being there for a student in need or giving the football team the inspiration to win an ODAC title, what Bane has truly done here at W&L is to propagate the idea of the W&L family. He embodies this principle that we are all united under the blue and white trident, and must care for and support each other as he did for thousands of students over the years.

“I hope and pray to the man above that we never lose this,” Bane said. “If we do, we’re in trouble here. We won’t get the great kids that we get now, if we lose that sense of family.”

With Bane retiring, it will be up to this generation of students and those generations in years to come to ensure that this family never dies. Fortunately, there will still be a bit of help for a while yet.

“Murph told me years ago that I would know when it was time to retire, he said ‘you’ll just get that feeling’. But I’m still gonna be around, I’m staying here, I’m not going anywhere,” Bane said. “I gotta come back and help these boys win a few more ODAC championships.”

While Bane might not be here in job title anymore, he will always remain close to the W&L community. Lee Hight summed up his importance to the school best.

“I think every college needs a Baner, and probably about ten or twelve of them,” Hight said.

It is unlikely that W&L will ever have twelve Baners, or even ten. However, W&L will always have one, and that one has been more than enough for the W&L family. Bane may have retired and passed the torch on to the next generation, but as long as he has any say in the matter, he will still be here to make sure it stays lit.