A way of life

Serving at the University for more than 25 years, Brian T. Bannister helps the Olin School of Business build out

Washington University is a way of life for Brian T. Bannister, associate dean for finance and administration in the Olin School of Business.

Thousands of dedicated staff work diligently every day to help accomplish the University’s mission, but not many can say this is the only place they have ever worked. Bannister can.

bannister main
Brian Bannister, associate dean for finance and administration in the Olin School of Business, was instrumental in the development of the Charles F. Knight Executive Education Center. “It’s a totally integrated residential learning facility,” Bannister says. “Building it was just a joy to be involved with, especially when it began to rise out of the ground and take form.” – Photo by Carol House

Beginning with summer jobs at the University while still in high school, and then again in college, Bannister began a relationship with WUSTL that has now spanned more than 25 years.

He earned undergraduate and master’s degrees from the University and has held positions of increasing responsibility here, first in the Office of Information Systems and since 1994 at the business school.

From helping develop FOCUS, the first University-wide computer reporting language and system, to his instrumental role in the design, construction and operation of the business school’s Charles F. Knight Executive Education Center, Bannister has served without fanfare, quietly and effectively contributing to the professional life and development of the University.

A steady progression in the information systems office — where Bannister joined the University full-time in 1986, serving as senior project leader and then as assistant director — allowed him a broad exposure to many departments and schools. Helping maintain the proper operation of the reporting systems for finance, personnel, payroll and student information for the entire University was an “around-the-clock, seven-day-a-week job.”

“I was very lucky in information systems to get to work with managers in a wide variety of University departments,” Bannister says. “I was able to act as kind of an internal consultant to assist in the application of information technology to their specific needs. It gave me an excellent overview of operations University-wide.”

Marilyn Pollack, director of students at Wohl Student Center, worked closely with Bannister in those days, when she was working in financial planning for the University.

“In those early years, it was occasionally difficult to translate the wishes of the end users into the language required for technical design and development,” Pollack says. “Brian took the time and care to navigate through the complexities of translating my ideas into a working reality, and somehow managed to make me feel smarter through the process.

“Brian nurtures the best in people, both intellectually and personally.”

Bannister also assisted the offices of the dean of the faculty of Arts & Sciences, the provost, the executive vice chancellor and the chancellor.

It is no wonder that he attracted the attention of Stuart I. Greenbaum, Ph.D., dean of the Olin School.

Greenbaum came to the Olin School in 1995 and quickly assembled his “A-team” of top managers. Bannister is among Greenbaum’s most trusted lieutenants.

bannister family
Brian Bannister and his wife, Mary Dale-Bannister, enjoy a vacation at Disneyland. – Courtesy photo

“Brian manages people and budgets with equal aplomb,” Greenbaum says. “His fastidious attention to detail brings accuracy, timeliness and insight to both his decisions and his counsel.

“Brian’s every action supports the Olin School’s culture of caring in pursuit of excellence. He spurs all around him to greater achievement and good will. I’m proud to count him among my colleagues and advisers.”

Functioning as the Olin School’s chief financial officer to Greenbaum’s chief executive officer role, Bannister is involved in every aspect of the business school’s management, budgets and operations.

Perhaps his most challenging assignment to date was the realization of the Knight Center, the $50 million, 135,000 square-foot, five-story facility dedicated in October 2001 that is the crown jewel of the Olin School’s campus within a campus.

The impressive building houses non-degree executive education programs, the executive master of business administration program and the school’s Weston Career Resources Center.

The Knight Center contains five high-tech classrooms, 27 small-group study rooms, a world-class dining room, 66 deluxe hotel rooms, an executive boardroom, a fitness center and even a pub where students can relax over a drink after a long day in class.

“It’s a totally integrated residential learning facility,” Bannister says. “Building it was just a joy to be involved with, especially when it began to rise out of the ground and take form.”

Bannister visited executive education centers from coast to coast during the design and planning phase of the Knight Center.

Brian T. BannisterHometown: St. LouisEducation: B.S., M.B.A., computer science, both in 1985 from Washington UniversityUniversity positions: Associate dean for finance & administration, 2001-present; assistant dean for budget & operations, 1998-2001; director of financial planning & management, 1994-1998 (John M. Olin School of Business); assistant director of information systems, 1987-1994; senior project leader, 1986; and programmer/analyst, 1981-85 (Office of Information Systems)Family: Mary Dale-Bannister, wife; Alexandra, 19, daughterHobbies: Softball, baseball and racquetball — he plays a game many mornings at the Athletic Complex before work. Also, travel — United States, Europe and Egypt. Loves Disney theme parks — Disneyland in the United States, Disneyland in Paris, Disney World (has visited 15 times).

“We went to Northwestern (University’s Kellogg School of Management), the University of Chicago and Wharton (the University of Pennsylvania School of Business), to name a few,” he says, “to glean the best of the best.

“Then, we had to understand the totality of everyone’s needs and balance it all with the look and feel and style of what we wanted, and of course, our budget! We wanted the Knight Center to be the premier executive education facility in the country — and it is.”

A love affair

Growing up an only child in south St. Louis County on three acres, Bannister says he was a “child of modest privilege,” and “lucky to have had a typical childhood.”

“My yard was the neighborhood baseball field, so I played a lot of ball when I was a kid. It comes in handy on Staff Day!”

Bannister’s love affair with the University began early. In high school, he worked summers in information systems as “the Burster Boy.”

“I ran this big machine that burst computer forms apart at about a mile a minute, so I got the nickname and it kind of stuck,” he says. “Some of the folks in IS still call me that.”

He even met his wife, Mary, at the University, during their freshman orientation.

“We hit it off right away and started dating and married between our sophomore and junior years,” he says.

Mary Dale-Bannister also graduated from the University and for several years worked in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in Arts & Sciences in planetary imaging. Their daughter, Alexandra, will enter the College of Arts & Sciences this fall.

“The University is everything to me,” he says. “I feel so lucky to have had all the experiences I’ve had at Washington University and to have worked with all the great people that I’ve known here over the years.

“I still look forward to coming to work every day. Every day is fun. Every day is still a challenge.”