President Blount statement on passing of Professor Emeritus Glenn Bannerman
I grew up on a farm. Peanuts, corn, and soybeans were the rotated crops that surrounded my house every spring and summer. And there were gardens. Rows and rows of vegetables. I didn’t like eating any of them. That didn’t stop my mom and dad from sending me out to pick them. Surrounding all of that were a few houses and lots of trees and woods. And stuck strategically in the middle of it all was my house, a big back yard, and a barn. Whenever I thought of that barn, or any barn, for that matter, I thought of hay, and tools, and parked tractors, and field mice, and the occasional snake or two, hunting the field mice. From the very first day after meeting Glenn Bannerman, when I thought of barns, I thought of something else. I think now of dancing.
It’s revolutionary, really. How Glenn took the symbols and tools of business and fashioned for them an integral role for recreation. What was intended for work, Glenn repurposed for play. With the most delightful effect. I still remember students giggling and myself marveling as I entered one of Glenn’s Recreation Workshop classes in the basement of the Early Center. They were crafting. Making extraordinary recreational tools and toys from innocuous household items like pantyhose. He invited me to sit and listen. And he and his students opened up a wonderful world of engagement, of using scripture, theological perspective, familiar and not so familiar games, common and not so common domestic and workplace objects to structure play, to communicate creative crafting, to build community, to teach the presence and movement of God’s Spirit with us through the way we joyfully encountered God’s creation and the people who are part of that creation with us. Play was play for Glenn. But play was also, for Glenn, theology. At the bottom of the recreation theology he was teaching was some very serious fun.
By the time I met Glenn he had already retired from his illustrious career of decades teaching at PSCE. I did not have the privilege of working with him when he was a full-time professor, but I came to know him well. Know his love for the church. Know his desire that the church see and experience the full joy of God’s creation. Know his passion that church leaders be able to teach and practice that joy through not only worship, prayer, and study together, but also play together.
As our community celebrates Glenn’s life by remembering Glenn’s story, I will cherish key moments where I had the honor of living particular pages of that story. Glenn and his wife Evelyn coming to Richmond not long after Sharon and I had begun our time at Union, driving all the way from Montreat, with the express welcoming purpose of taking us out for a meal at their favorite seafood restaurant. Glenn and Evelyn sitting side-by-side in those recreation workshop classes surrounded by seminary students intensely studying play. Glenn welcoming my wife and daughter to a barn dance at Montreat, introducing my introverted daughter by name to the entire camping community, and calling her like the voice of God onto the dance floor. Glenn telling me that wonderful story of how he was invited to come teach at PSCE for a single academic year. And when the year was over, and the next academic year started, since no one told him not to come back and teach, he came back and taught. And kept doing that and doing that for 31 years. Glenn calling the dance on the campus of Union Presbyterian Seminary, at Lingle Hall, after the alumni luncheon during one of the Sprunt Lectures. Glenn speaking with me about his unrelenting love for PSCE and the theological, recreational education bestowed upon him that he felt called to share with generations of students. All such memories, and so many more, I shall cherish.
Originally from Hopewell, Virginia, Glenn received his bachelor’s degree from Richmond Professional Institute, now Virginia Commonwealth University, and his master’s degree from the Assembly’s Training School, which became PSCE. Glenn began teaching at PSCE in 1958. Upon retiring in 1989, after 31 years of teaching, he and Evelyn moved to Montreat, North Carolina, where Glenn remained active in recreation and conducted leadership training and participatory events throughout the United States as well as overseas.
A certified church educator in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Glenn also worked in municipal recreation. Glenn founded the Bannerman Family Thanksgiving Folk Dance Camp. Along with his long-time service on the faculty of Union Presbyterian Seminary, he served as visiting faculty at San Francisco Theological Seminary. He served as staff at the Summer Fest Conference in Northern Ireland, conference leader at the Montreat Conference Center, instructor in the Montreat Annual Recreation Worship, and as caller in the Montreat Friday Night at the Barn Summer Square Dances.
Glenn is the author of Brite-Tite Book O’Fun, and a co-author of Guide for Recreation Leaders and Recreation With Dance, Movement, and Music. He is the recipient of several awards. The Trustee Award from PSCE. The Educator of the Year Award (1989) from the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators. The Margaret Bowen Award for Excellence in Education, St. Andrews College, Laurinburg, NC. The E-Chievement Award for making a positive difference in his community and beyond from the National Public Radio Show “E-Town.” And city-wide volunteer of the year from the Asheville Parks and Recreation Department of Asheville, NC.
I suspect that as the days go by we will all have stories to share in what will no doubt ultimately be a wonderful repository of Glenn Bannerman recollections. The stories will no doubt bring as much joy as Glenn himself did. Perhaps the last great Glenn Bannerman story is playing itself out even now. In transcendence. Even as God has called Glenn to heaven, I can’t help but believe that Glenn is calling heaven to dance.
Condolences may be mailed to Evelyn Bannerman at the following address:
200 Tabernacle Road
Limbert – Room 54
Black Mountain, NC 28711-7745
Director of Communications
Union Presbyterian Seminary