Distinguished Alumni

1981 - Joanne Belfiori Banks

Joanne Trautmann-1981"I believe that both medicine and literature are healing arts," wrote Banks who has carved out a career as a professor of literature for engineers and medical students. She has lectured on such topics as aging and the literary route to knowledge at the major medical schools across the country, written numerous articles for various journals and a volume on "Medicine and Literature," and has been co-editor of the six volumes of letters of Virginia Woolf. In her mid-career she became a national voice for keeping literature "in the forefront of society’s concerns" and making literature an important influence in the lives of medical students.

After her graduation from River Falls in 1962, she was awarded her master’s and Ph.D. degrees by Purdue University and taught humanities to engineers at Drexel University and to medical students at Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine where she is currently director of the Hershey Center for Humanistic Medicine.

Banks was co-founder of the Journal of Literature and Medicine and serves on its editorial board. She has also served as a consultant and grant reviewer for the National Endowment for the Humanities and has become a figure on the national scene affecting medicine and literature.

Banks has deep roots on the UW-River Falls campus where her father, Philip, was athletic coach and her mother, Virginia, served on the library staff. To many medical students she is known as a teacher who has opened the doors of that science to the searching questions posed by the humanities. To those who measure scholars by their published works, Banks will be long remembered as co-editor of the six volumes of the "Letters of Virginia Woolf" which a London reviewer called "a monument to scholarship and an ornament to literature."