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Donald R. Bankhead.

Photo courtesy of MA Murf. Source: Find a Grave, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/214700273/donald-ray-bankhead

Bankhead, Donald Ray (1935–2020)

By Lovanomena Zandritiana

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Lovanomena Zandritiana is a Malagasy serving as a student pastor at Biga Church in Silang Cavite, in the Philippines. Holding an M.A in Religion from Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies, he is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in New Testament in the same institution.

First Published: July 18, 2022

Donald R. Bankhead was a minister, professor, administrator, and missionary acclaimed for his four and half decades of service in India.

Early Life

Donald R. Bankhead was born in Yoakum, Texas, on April 10, 1935. He was the youngest of five siblings born into an Adventist family.1 His father, Oscar W. Bankhead, was an elder of Ontario, Oregon, Church.2 He worked as a fireman for the nearby railroad. He also worked as a mechanic and machine operator for a seed packing company.3 Don’s mother, Gladys O. Linville, ran a small restaurant.

Don spent his early childhood in Sunrise, Linn, Oregon. From an early age, Don exhibited a keen intellect. He moved to Gem State Academy (GSA) in Idaho to attend high school. Don excelled in his studies and earned Honor Roll status with a straight-A average during the 1953-1954 school year.4 Meanwhile, he developed interest in serving during his presidency, chaplaincy, and editorship experience as a high school senior student.5 He used to preach at Adventist churches in the vicinity near GSA. He was part of a quartet that ministered in several places. Notably, one of the other four singers in the quartet was Max Mace, who later formed the Heritage Singers.6

Education and Marriage

Don worked his way through Walla Walla College (now Walla Walla University) in Washington by working at the printing press. He also worked for a small farm, milking cows early each day.7 Don earned his Bachelor of Science in Graphic Arts with a minor in Religious Studies at College Place, at times also serving as colporteur evangelist in Idaho.8 During his college years, Don fell in love with Marjorie J. Lange, a nursing student. Marjorie was born and grew up in India to missionary parents, Olivier W. and Sylvia Lange.9 Right after the end of the Korean War in 1956, Don was drafted into military service during his sophomore year. He joined the United States Army as a medic for two years.10 Don married Marjorie on August 16, 1959, prior to leaving the military. He returned to College Place to finish his bachelor’s degree. After graduation, the newly married couple dedicated their lives to mission service. Hence, they submitted their names to the General Conference.11 They were blessed with three sons, Kent, Mickey, and Richard.12

In pursuit of academic advancement, Don enrolled at Oregon State University in the Master of Education program, majoring in Adult Education. He earned another Master’s Degree in Counseling at Andrews University, Michigan. Later, he moved to Georgia State University to pursue a doctorate in education (Ed.D.), specializing in Adult Education. Don took additional pastoral counseling classes and one unit of Clinical Pastoral Education at Andrews University.13

Ministry

The newlyweds headed to India to be missionaries in 1961, serving the Southern Asia Division. Don started his career by teaching and providing industrial work at the Assam Training School (ATS) in Calcutta,14 a school established under the help of Marjorie’s father.15 Don held multiple responsibilities during his 13 years of service at the school. In 1963, he was appointed principal of ATS.16 Under his leadership, hundreds of students from ATS became student evangelists each year when they returned to their homes.17 Don continued his work as an Industrial Arts Instructor18 after a year of furlough granted for study.19 He was a man of various interests and passions. Aside from his love for graphic design, lettering, and hiking, he was passionate about music. He played harmonica and guitar and was the director of ATS’s largest choir with 40 young people.20

In 1973, Don served as the acting industrial supervisor of the Pakistan Adventist College and Seminary.21 From 1974 to 1981, he worked as a production superintendent and technical adviser at the Oriental Watchman Publishing House (OWPH) in Pune, India.22 In addition to serving as a member of the Board of Trustees,23 Don pastored at the Salisbury Park Church.24 He had a great love for young people and was active as a Pathfinder leader,25 teaching them various skills such as the art of boat rowing, First Aid instruction, CPR training, and others.26

The year 1981 marked the two decades of Don’s missionary service in the Southern Asia Division. He was granted a permanent return and received appreciation from the calling Division.27 Shortly afterward, Don went to Spicer Memorial College to teach and counsel. In 1983, he was elected president of the Sri Lanka Union of Churches28 and departmental director of Lay Activities and Youth until 1985.29 He then left India to teach at Andrews University. There, he taught Second School Administration, Teaching Strategies, Human Resources Administration, Supervision of Instruction, Systems Concepts and Change, and Pastoral Counseling.

In 1990, Don returned to India, where he served as executive vice president at Spicer Memorial College, Pune.30 From 1994 to 2000, he served as chaplain and associate director of Pastoral Care for Park Ridge Hospital, Fletcher, North Carolina.31 He enjoyed providing entertainment during worship with the patients.32 In addition, literature was made available throughout the hospital for the visitors and patients. Along with hospital visits, Don spent most of his time during in-home visitation with Home Health patients, praying in every home, and teaching people who were open to Bible study.33 He also assisted in medical evangelism training for pastors and lay persons.

From 2000 to 2007, Don was at the Division in Hosur, serving as Southern Asia Field Secretary and Board Chairman of Division Adventist Health Care. When he was assigned to this role, 11 out of 12 hospitals—11 hospitals in India and one in Nepal—were operating in the red. “With careful advice, good management, and special blessings from the Lord, within a short time, 10 hospitals were breaking even financially, but one sadly ended up closing.”34 From 2008 to 2010, Don volunteered to teach at Spicer College, India. Later, he went to Andrews University, where he taught for two semesters.

Later Life

After retiring, Don moved to North California and served as a chaplain at Advent Health in Hendersonville for six years. While there, Don and Marjorie adopted a daughter named Michelle into their family.35 Don often returned to the mission field even in his retirement. He remained active in local church work. His love for the classroom moved him and his wife to go to the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies (AIIAS) in the Philippines in 2011 as Adventist Volunteer Services (AVS) workers.36 They taught in the Education Department of AIIAS Graduate School. Later that year, Don was asked to be the principal of AIIAS Junior Academy (AJA), now AIIAS Academy.37 During his tenure as principal, he played a pivotal role in obtaining accreditation from the Philippine government. His school extension model to accommodate higher classes was approved and recognized by the Philippines Department of Education.38 In 2012, AIIAS acknowledged his hard and good work in processing the approval of the kindergarten and grades 7 to 10 of AJA.39

Don returned to the United States after serving AIIAS. He volunteered to be the chaplain at Advent Health in Hendersonville. He especially enjoyed teaching intensive classes at Adventist University in Kyiv, Ukraine.40 In 2017, Don accepted the call to serve as a stipend pastor in Jasper, Georgia, for two additional years.41

In Don’s later years, he developed atrial fibrillation and passed to his rest on May 30, 2020, in Hendersonville, North Carolina, at the age of 85. He was buried in the Black Hills military cemetery outside Asheville, North California.42

Legacy and Contributions

Don devoted his life to mission and service as an accomplished servant of God. The four and a half decades he spent in India as a missionary left a long-lasting impact.43 He had a resolute commitment to sharing Jesus with people. He was revered for his instinctive concern for others’ well-being. Some of his distinctive characteristics were simplicity and lack of interest in gaining material things. One of his colleagues uttered, “Don came to Spicer with two suitcases and left the College with two suitcases.”44 Don was known for being kind to people. He was always open-handed with finances and generous to others. Notably, he even built houses for more than one poor family with no place to live. By the time he retired for the last time, he had given away most of his savings.45

Donald Bankhead’s life exhibited what it means to be a true missionary who stood for the ideals of serving God and others while sacrificing personal interests. In his words:

“For the child of God, every place is indeed a part of his Father's world. And especially is this true for those who are working for the church. It is a sobering, but noble thought that all our work is to be done as unto the Lord.”46

Sources

“A Review of End Year Meetings.” Southern Asia Tidings 79, no. 2, 1984.

Bankhead, Donald R. Curriculum Vitae, Adventist International Institute of Advanced

Studies, Graduate School Archives, retrieved on May 30, 2022.

Boykin, C.A. “ASSAM Elementary Teachers’ Institute.” Southern Asia Tidings, July 1963.

Boykin, C. A. “Represent 35 Languages: Assam Training School.” Southern Asia Tidings, February 1969.

“Colporteur Evangelism.” North Pacific Union Gleaner, October 1956.

Cooper, L. C. “Sri Lanka Constituency,” Southern Asia Tidings 80, no. 2, 1985.

General Conference Committee, Minutes of Meeting, November 10, 1960; May 18, 1967; March 5, 1981; July 7, 1983; May 3, 1984.

Lange, O. W. “A Visit to Adventpura,” in Southern Asia Tidings 73, no. 3, 1978.

Moses, K. J. “S.M.C Listener.” Southern Asia Tidings 70, no. 3, 1975. 

Obituary for Donald R. Bankhead, retrieved on May 29, 2022, from

https://www.tributearchive.com/obituaries/14870191/donald-r-bankhead/black-mountain/north-carolina/harwood-home-for-funerals-and-cremation; https://www.harwoodhomeforfunerals.com/memorials/donald-bankhead/4228772/obit.php?&printable=true.

Prasad, Rajendra. “Waiting Their Turn.” Southern Asia Tidings 73, no. 3, 1978.

Quick, Ron. “Just Another Day in the Life of a Chaplain.” Southern Asia Tidings 91, no. 9, 1997.

Singh, Justin S. “Salisbury Park Youth Go Camping.” Southern Asia Tidings 72, no. 7, 1977.

Storz, W. F. “Camps Stress.” Southern Asia Tidings 68, no. 5, 1973.

Storz, W. F. “Christian Education in Southern Asia.” Gleaner 67, no. 17, 1972.

Zamora, Sharnie. “Remembering Donald Ray Bankhead,” retrieved on June 1, 2022, from https://www.aiias.edu/remembering-donald-ray-bankhead-1935-2020/

Notes

  1. After two brothers, Clean F and Melvin Oscar, and two sisters, Ruby Ferguson and Elenor M.

  2. “Oscar W. Bankhead was one of the elders of that church [Ontario, Ore.,] most of the time from 1950-61.” Emphasis is author’s). See Raymond E. Ferguson, “More About Ontario, Ore., Church,” Gleaner, September 1982, 2.

  3. Mickey Bankhead, email to the author, June 22, 2022.

  4. “Gem State Academy News,” North Pacific Union Gleaner, December 1953, 4, 5; “Gem State Academy News,” North Pacific Union Gleaner, March 1954, 7.

  5. Ibid.

  6. Mickey Bankhead, Email to the author, June 22, 2022.

  7. Ibid.

  8. “Colporteur Evangelism,” North Pacific Union Gleaner, October 1956, 6.

  9. Helena Carlson, “Missionary Speaks at Troy, Idaho,” in North Pacific Union Gleaner, October 1969, 7; W. F. Storz, “Christian Education in Southern Asia,” in Gleaner, September 1972, 6.

  10. Obituary for Donald R. Bankhead, retrieved on May 29, 2022.

  11. Marjorie’s sister LoRita and her husband Harold Erickson had already been sent as missionaries to India by the General Conference.

  12. Obituary for Donald R. Bankhead.

  13. Donald R. Bankhead, Curriculum Vitae, Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies, Graduate School Archives, retrieved on May 30, 2022.

  14. General Conference Committee, Minute of Meetings, November 10, 1960, 783; “Modern Apostles: A recapitulation of Appointments,” in Southern Asia Division 79, nos. 7, 6; Assam Training School was established with the help of O. W. Lange, a missionary from India and Pakistan. He is the father of Marjorie Bankhead. See Helena Carlson, “Missionary Speaks at Troy, Idaho,” in North Pacific Union Gleaner, October 1969, 7.

  15. Carlson, “Missionary Speaks at Troy, Idaho,” 7.

  16. C. A. Boykin, “ASSAM Elementary Teaches’ Institute,” Southern Asia Tidings, July 1963, 6. Southern Tidings, February 1870, 10.

  17. Donald reported that “Representatives from nearly one-third of the 126 tribes in Assam have attended Assam Training School. During past four years 66 students have been baptized,” Southern Tidings, February 1870, 9-10.

  18. J. B. Trim, Southern Asia Tidings 62, no. 10, Pune, Maharashtra, India: October 1967:14; General Conference Committee, Minutes of Meetings, May 18, 1967, 480.

  19. General Conference Committee, Minute of Meetings, May 18, 1967, 480; J. B. Trim, Southern Asia Tidings, October 1967, 14.

  20. C. A. Boykin, “Represent 35 Languages: Assam Training School,” in Southern Asia Tidings, February 1969, 14.

  21. W. F. Storz, “Camps Stress.” Southern Asia Tidings, May 1973, 16.

  22. Council of Appointments, Southern Asia Tidings, January 1977, 12; O. W. Lange, “A Visit to Adventpura,” Southern Asia Tidings, March 1978, 3.

  23. K. J. Moses, “S. M. C Listener,” Southern Asia Tidings, March 1975, 15-16.

  24. Justin S. Singh, “Salisbury Park Youth Go camping,” Southern Asia Tidings, July 1977, 13.

  25. Southern Asia Tidings 70, no. 5, May 1975, 5.

  26. Rajendra Prasad, “Waiting Their Turn,” Southern Asia Tidings, March 1978, 7.

  27. General Conference Committee, Minutes of Meeting, March 5, 1981, 81-62.

  28. General Conference Committee, Minutes of Meeting, July 7, 1983, 83; General Conference Committee, Minute of Meeting, May 3, 1984, 84; A Review of End Year meetings, in Southern Asia Tidings, February 1984, 10

  29. L. C. Cooper, “Sri Lanka Constituency,” Southern Asia Tidings 80, February 1985, 5.3.

  30. Bulletin Board, ARH, November 1990, 30.

  31. Ron Quick “Just Another Day in the Life of a Chaplain,” in Southern Tiding, September 1997, 2-3.

  32. Ibid., 2-3.

  33. Ibid., 2-3.

  34. Mickey Bankhead, email to the author, June 22, 2022.

  35. Obituary for Donald R. Bankhead.

  36. Donald R. Bankhead, Curriculum Vitae.

  37. AIIAS Board Minutes, October 9, 2011, voted 11:377.

  38. Ranjith Kingston, cited in Sharnie Zamora, “Remembering Donald Ray Bankhead,” retrieved on June 1, 2022.

  39. AIIAS Board Minutes, February 29, 2012, Voted 2012-080.

  40. Mickey Bankhead, email to the author.

  41. Sharnie Zamora, “Remembering Donald Ray Bankhead,” retrieved on June 1, 2022.

  42. Mickey Bankhead, email to the author.

  43. Obituary for Donald R. Bankhead.

  44. Personal communication, Carol Kingston, Donald’s colleague at Spicer and AIIAS academy, June 3, 2022.

  45. Mickey Bankhead, email to the author.

  46. Donald R. Bankhead, “How Do You work: 1980 World Stewardship Year,” Southern Asia Tidings 75, no. 8, August 1980, 10-11.

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Zandritiana, Lovanomena. "Bankhead, Donald Ray (1935–2020)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. July 18, 2022. Accessed May 25, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=CJJG.

Zandritiana, Lovanomena. "Bankhead, Donald Ray (1935–2020)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. July 18, 2022. Date of access May 25, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=CJJG.

Zandritiana, Lovanomena (2022, July 18). Bankhead, Donald Ray (1935–2020). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved May 25, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=CJJG.