Arthur J. Bangs, FSC, Ph.D., ’53, M.A. ’54, a Brother of the Christian Schools and two-time La Salle alumnus whose service to the University spanned nearly half of a century, died Dec. 11. He was 89.
Bangs’ primary ministry at La Salle was supporting its students within the University’s Student Counseling Center, where he served as a licensed clinical psychologist and counselor. (He received his doctorate in counseling from The Catholic University of America.) Bangs also taught in La Salle’s education department during several multi-year assignments, beginning in 1969. His teaching and counseling career at 20th and Olney concluded in 2018 upon his retirement following 49 years of service. Along the way, he contributed to several student wellness and student experience functions. Notably, from 1979–82, Bangs provided on-site leadership in Fribourg, Switzerland, as part of the University’s study-abroad program.
His greatest satisfaction stemmed from “working with young people in any capacity,” Bangs said in 1999 in an interview with La Salle Magazine. “Teaching and counseling seem more rewarding to me now than ever before.”
Born in Philadelphia, Bangs graduated from what is known today as West Catholic Preparatory High School. Moving from one Lasallian institution to another, he continued his education at La Salle and earned an undergraduate degree in Latin in 1953 and a master of arts degree in 1954. He later earned a master’s degree in the classics at the University of Pittsburgh, and master’s and doctoral degrees in counseling from Catholic University.
Described by his peers as “a good, kind man” and “a quiet, faithful person,” Bangs was a regular at campus functions and Masses. He was quick on his feet, said Bob Kinzler, FSC, assistant vice president of university ministry, service, and support, a Christian Brother who had a prayer ready for any time or any event.
Bangs prioritized the mental health and wellness of students, taking appointments with students who needed someone to talk to about their stress, anxiety, depression, relationship trouble, and other issues. His counseling expertise extended to the classroom, where he led an educational psychology course for La Salle’s undergraduate education majors.
“I like to see my role as a teacher in the classroom as a mentor, as someone students can come to for help for any reason, and as a good listener,” he said in 2006 in a University newsletter. “I like to find any way I can to be of help in their lives. … My whole life’s pleasure has been working with younger people. It’s invigorating. Working with youth tends to keep you young.”
To Jim Black, ’84, Ph.D., Bangs was simply “Uncle Art” or “AB,” the initials he used when signing letters or cards to family and friends. Bangs’ influence on Black led him to La Salle—where he met his wife Kathy, ’85, and studied psychology—and toward securing a career in Lasallian ministry.
“My uncle knew the importance of listening to those he spoke with and maintaining a positive demeanor with everyone he met,” said Black, director of the youth services division of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Catholic Social Services. “He was an old-school educator who used an overhead projector until his final days in the classroom. Whether it was AV (audio-visual) or IT (information technology), I’m not sure, but I remember him telling us about getting what they told him was La Salle’s last overhead projector bulb because, by then, most faculty had moved onto PowerPoint or other presentation styles. That’s just who he was—old school.”
Bangs possessed an affinity for travel and a talent for music, his colleagues said, recalling his ability to play multiple instruments, including piano. Within the Brothers’ residence, Bangs routinely competed in nightly games of Scrabble with two former University Presidents Daniel Burke, FSC, Ph.D., and Patrick Ellis, FSC, and Provost Emeritus Emery C. Mollenhauer, FSC, Ph.D., among others.
“Watching him play, you could say it was like Art had the dictionary memorized,” said Michael J. McGinniss, FSC, Ph.D., director of the La Salle Honors Program and President Emeritus.
“He would tell stories over lunch about his students,” Brother Mike continued. “That’s what I remember about Brother Art—his devotion to his teaching and his students.”
—Christopher A. Vito