The three Banks Lecture Series speakers

Keith and Debra Banks Lecture Series Brings Experts in History, Urban Planning and Economics to Rutgers-Newark

[3/11/2020 Update]: 

As a precautionary measure against COVID-19, beginning Thursday, March 12 through April 15, Rutgers events and in-person meetings involving groups larger than 15 participants are cancelled. We will reschedule this series for a future date.


The Keith and Debra Banks Endowed Lecture Series will resume this semester with a lineup of three talks given by visiting speakers from the fields of History, Urban Planning and Economics.

On March 23 (11:30am–1pm), RU-N’s Department of History will sponsor a lecture by Justin Stearns, Associate Professor of Islamic History in NYU Abu Dhabi and currently a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton. In his talk, titled, "After the Golden Age: Narrating the History of the Natural Sciences in the Muslim World Before 1800,” Stearns, using 17th-century Morocco as a case study, will revisit the broad question of what made the 9th to 12th centuries distinctive, and will then look at how knowledge of the natural sciences was transmitted, studied and advanced from the 13th to the 18th centuries. The talk will take place at Dana Library, Dana Room (4th floor).

Immediately following his lecture, Stearns will join RU-N History Professor Nukhet Varlik for a post-lecture conversation on “Sciences in the Eastern and Western Mediterranean,” which will focus on sciences produced in the Islamic political sphere that can include Muslims, Christians and Jews. The conversation will also take place in the Dana Room.

Also on March 23 (2pm), Julian Agyeman, Professor of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University, will give a talk sponsored by the Division of Global Affairs titled, "Just Sustainabilities in Policy, Planning and Practice.” He’ll outline the concept of just sustainabilities as a response to the ‘equity deficit’ of much sustainability thinking and practice, exploring how who can belong in our cities will ultimately determine what our cities become. Agyeman will illustrate his ideas with examples from urban planning and design, urban agriculture and food justice, and the concept of sharing cities. The talk will take place at Express Newark (Room 425), in the Hahne’s Building at 54 Halsey Street.

And on March 30 (11:30am) Viral Acharya, the C.V. Starr Professor of Economics in the Department of Finance at New York University Stern School of Business, will present a lecture sponsored by RU-N’s Economics department titled, "Creating Zombies and Disinflation: A Cul de Sac for Accommodative Monetary Policy.” He’ll discuss central bank policies of developed economies in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, arguing that ultra-accommodative monetary policy—by encouraging loan ever-greening, preventing the default of non-viable companies, and creating excess capacity in the economy—has worked against its own objectives of restoring inflation and growth. Location TBD.

The lecture series was created with a pledge of $100K to SASN in 2013 by alumnus Keith Banks (NCAS ’77), who grew up in Nutley, NJ, and studied economics as an undergraduate at RU-N.

Banks currently is serving as Vice Chairman and Head of the Investment Solutions Group at Bank of America, where he oversees the Chief Investment Office, Alternative Investments and Specialty Asset Management, Capital Markets divisions, and the products and platforms supporting Merrill, Bank of America Private Bank and Retirement & Personal Wealth Solutions—representing total client balances of more than $3 trillion.

Banks has been donating time, expertise and money to his alma-mater for years. He made his first gift to Rutgers in 1987 in support of the Newark College of Arts and Sciences. Since then, he and his wife, Debra, have been generous donors, establishing scholarships for the university’s Honors Living-Learning Community, the Department of Economics, and the School of Arts and Sciences–Newark, as well as the endowed speaker series in economics.

He has found other ways to give back to Rutgers as well, speaking at Rutgers Business School events and supporting the economics department’s Fed Challenge Team by hosting practice sessions for the team in the BofA Tower in midtown Manhattan, with a panel of fellow RU-N alumni from the financial services industry.

In November 2019, Banks was inducted into the Rutgers University Hall of Distinguished Alumni, one of the most prestigious honors the university bestows upon its graduates.

The first named endowed speaker series in SASN history, the Banks lectures kicked off in 2015, bringing two or three high-profile experts from various industries to RU-N annually. The lectures are open to all the public and include at least one expert on economics each year.