VAN ALSTYNE — Grayson College’s South Campus recently welcomed its new dean, Brad Bankhead, and hosted an open house so the community could meet him.

Bankhead follows Kim Williams, who led Grayson College for several years before moving upward in the college system’s administration.

“Kim left it (the campus) in good shape,” Bankhead said. “One of the great things about following such an administrator is that she has a well-organized team with the most important of assets — their spirit. Regardless of the role or title anyone here has, all of them focus on ‘How do we make each day better for students.’ There is a great deal of warmth here, and I am glad I have found that.”

Bankhead, who grew up in Paris, Texas, is a graduate of Paris Junior College, East Texas State and of Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, where he earned his master’s degree, finishing in 1979. He has taught at other universities, including New Mexico State.

“I am reminded of a student who came up to me at New Mexico State,” Bankhead said. “He said ‘We have been trying to get some of our friends to take one of your classes. It’s the most peaceful place on this campus.’ I realized then that students need a sense of sanctuary, a place where they belong, safe and connected with one another. That’s the atmosphere where learning takes place, and that is the atmosphere on this campus. It’s a peaceful place to learn.”

This South Campus of Grayson College offers duel credits for high school students in several courses, along with several technology courses.

“Right now, our licensed vocational nursing program is at capacity,” Bankhead said. “The Medical Lab Technology program has room to grow, including its phlebotomy certification. We feel we need to expand more options in our welding courses. That’s available for both high school students as well as adults who want to learn that skill.”

Bankhead added the school is interviewing for a full-time electrical technologies instructor and hope to have that in place for next semester.

“Anything that we offer — and we look to see if it’s a good match for the local school districts — can be offered as concurrent credits,” he said.

Bankhead said he’s been talking with superintendents of some of the school districts about encouraging their students to explore more technical options, and plans to visit with many others in the area around Van Alstyne.

“We (the working community) desperately need an educated workforce,” Bankhead said. “These certification programs offer someone the chance to get a skill set they can use, whether it’s while they are continuing their education, or whether it is for a life skill.”

Grayson College President Jeremy McMillen said, during the South Campus open house, the school couldn’t be happier to have Bankhead in place.

“He brings a lot to the table,” McMillen said.

Bankhead said everyone has been very welcoming.

“I could not have conceived of a better job or a better location — I feel really blessed to be here,” Bankhead said. “This is not just the school, but the community has been warm as well. I really enjoy this community. It takes me back to the sense of community (Paris) that I grew up in.”

He said, too, that being so close to Paris makes it much easier to get lots of visits in with his mother, who still lives in his hometown.

“I want to always be in tune to suggestions from our community about how to make seamless transitions into college — and that starts early in life,” Bankhead said. “I hope people will be very comfortable about approaching me with ideas about how to create successful strategies, creating new programs. People are welcome to call me, to come by the office, to contact me with their ideas about how we can better serve the communities around us. It’s not just a campus for our students. It is for the community.”