Former Executive Director John Bankert dies

Former Executive Director John Bankert dies

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John Bankert, who spent his entire professional career at the Pro Football Hall of Fame including serving as the museum’s executive director, died early Thursday morning after a lengthy illness. He was 68.

Bankert was a moving force and integral part of the organization’s numerous accomplishments including major building expansions, and the growth of the annual Enshrinement Festival.

“John dedicated his entire working career to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in various roles for more than four decades.” commented Steve Perry, who succeeded Bankert as the President/Executive Director in 2006. “He had an extraordinary love for the Hall of Fame and he had an extraordinarily warm relationship with the Hall of Famers enshrined here.  His leadership helped the Hall of Fame to grow and to become widely thought of as America’s premier sports museum.  On behalf of all of us at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I extend our sincere condolences to John’s family during this difficult time.”

Bankert was born in nearby Waynesburg, Ohio on June 18, 1940. After graduating from Sandy Valley High School, he entered the U.S. Army where he served stateside at Fort Lee Virginia. It was there where he watched on television the September 7, 1963 dedication of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Four days later, he was discharged from the Army and returned to his native city.

In 1964, he enrolled at Malone College in Canton and also began working at the Hall of Fame in the film library under the Hall’s first director Dick McCann. He earned a B.A. in Business and Economics from Malone in 1969.

Bankert, who is the only employee to work under the Hall’s first three directors – McCann, Dick Gallagher and Pete Elliott – rose through the company over the years. He was named administrative assistant, then business manager and then promoted to Vice President of Operations.

When Elliott retired in 1996, the Hall’s Board of Trustees selected Bankert as the museum’s fourth Executive Director. The title President was added later. He served in that capacity through his retirement on December 31, 2005.

“John is not simply someone who I worked closely with for 17 years, but he was a true friend.” stated Elliott. “Those of us close to the Hall of Fame know how important the Hall of Fame was to John and we also know how important John was to the Hall of Fame. His devotion to the Hall will long be remembered.”

A former councilman in his hometown, Bankert also served as President of the International Association of Sports Museums and Halls of Fame (today known as the International Sports Heritage Association). In 1993, he was awarded that organization’s highest honor, the prestigious Schroeder Award for Distinguished Service. He also served on the Board of Advisors for the Little League Baseball Museum.

Bankert married Joan Moyer on January 20, 1962 and she survives along with their four children, eight grandchildren and his mother and two brothers.

Calling hours will be Friday, March 20 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Formet-Clevenger & Gordon Funeral Home located at 1803 Cleveland Avenue NW in Canton. The funeral is set for Saturday, March 21 at 11 a.m. at the Johnson Center at Malone University, located at 2600 Cleveland Avenue NW, Canton. Additional calling hours will be held one hour prior to the funeral at the Johnson Center. Burial will follow at North Lawn Cemetery.

Note: Funeral arrangements have been updated since orignal story was posted.

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 Vic Carucci of profiled Bankert’s career in this piece written in 2003. Read>>>
 Read a 2008 profile on Bankert from a local paper. Read>>>
 History of the Pro Football Hall of Fame
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 Hall of Fame through the years
 John Bankert, Hall of Fame Director
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