A Sit Down with Thomas "Baner" Bane
By Jimmy Dugan Even if you have never played on a sports team or set foot in Doremus Gym, you have likely heard of Thomas Bane, affectionately called “Baner.”
Baner is currently in his 43rd year of employment at “Dubyahnell,” as he affectionately pronounces it. He grew up in Lexington and has resided in Rockbridge County his entire life, marrying Doris M. Bane in 1973. He has one daughter named Molly.
Baner started working at Washington and Lee as part of the grounds crew in 1972. He has held a range of other jobs since, including equipment manager in the old stadium, traffic officer, and security officer with then Chief of Security, Charles F. Murray. Baner often reminisces about how “Murph,” as he was known, helped him immensely during his tenure.
“The kids I took care of in all my years here. Kept them out of trouble. Murph taught me how to do that. My job then was to keep them out of trouble, whatever it took,” said Baner. “He’s the one that taught me how to communicate with the students and trust them and them trust me.”
Baner has not reached his revered status in the W&L community simply due to his long tenure here. He is recognized by his boisterous personality and sincere concern for the well-being of each person he comes into contact with. During a particular party at an off campus house far from the Traveller line, designated drivers often find Baner prompting them to slow down. As you get to know him, you will quickly doubt whether there is a more genuine person on the campus.
I first encountered Baner when I was sidelined during preseason football with a bout of mono. He approached me and asked if I wanted him to grab me a skirt from the equipment room. I tried explaining that I could not play because my spleen could burst. Despite my futile attempts at explanation, all he wanted to talk about was fitting me with a new skirt. Almost a year and a half later, after our final game of the season, Baner was thanking me for everything I did, saying how much it meant to him. I wondered why he was thanking me. I had a good game, but I really could not tell if he was serious.
But, he absolutely was serious. That is just the kind of man Baner is. He is grateful for the life he has lived and is thankful to anyone who has shared even a small part in it.
“I owe everything I am today to the W&L alumni and the kids here today. I owe them, they don’t owe me a thing. I owe them,” said Baner. “I just got chills telling you that.”
Baner has seen a lot in his time at Washington and Lee. He has seen numerous University Presidents, the start of coeducation, and countless Mock Conventions. Yet for Baner, it is the smaller things that stick with him. Baner affectionately remembers Charlie Brown, Washington and Lee’s All-American Lacrosse goalie, scoring a full-field goal against North Carolina back when the team was Division 1.
“That was just Charlie Brown. He was that good and everybody has a little luck every once in a while,” said Baner.
Baner also vividly remembers the more tragic moments of his time at W&L.
“I had to go up in Graham-lees dorm when one of our little freshman girls got killed out here on 60 in a car accident. She was a passenger in the car. I had to let her mom and dad into her room to get her belongings,” said Baner. “That was one time that Murph and I couldn’t be there.”
After 43 years, Baner remains uncertain as to when he’ll retire. It will be the hardest day of his life, he says. He has dedicated so much of his life to being a part of W&L, and he is still grateful to this day for the opportunity he was given 40-plus years prior.
“If you’d of told me when I was a little farm boy here in Rockbridge County that one day I’d have all these jobs at Washington and Lee University and have friends all over the world, I’d tell you you’re crazy.”