BY CRAIG COLEY
On a wall in his office at the Monroe County Community School Corporation (MCCSC), L. Julius Hanks II has a picture of the Bloomington High School North track team from his days as a runner. “I call them my brothers, which confuses people,” Hanks says, “because you have a 6-foot-4 redhead with Irish background, a 5-foot Korean guy, a guy from Thailand, an African American. But we loved each other so much. Our coach called us the Cadillac Crew.”
Hanks, 31, is proud they set two school records, one of which still stands. And as the MCCSC coordinator of diversity opportunities, charged with keeping the district focused on equity, Hanks sees the Cadillac Crew as an example of how diverse people can form a close community.
“I try to use that same model as a professional, so that students feel supported,” Hanks says. “Every single parent, student, visitor, or guardian who visits our schools should feel welcome, no matter what your race, your gender, your ethnicity, if you’re abled or disabled. One of the roles I have is making sure that’s embedded in things that we do each and every day.”
It runs in the family. Born in Tuskegee, Alabama, Hanks moved to Bloomington at age 6 when his late father, political science professor Lawrence Hanks, was named Indiana University’s dean of African American affairs, which involved supporting equity on campus. His mother, Diane Hanks, who retired from MCCSC in 2015, served as its talent and diversity specialist. Hanks expected his mother would exude advice about how he should do the job, but was caught off-guard by the simplicity of her counsel. “She told me, ‘Be yourself, do your best, and you won’t have anything to worry about,’” he says.
While earning his bachelor’s degree in history from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Hanks met his wife, Mary Priester-Hanks. They married in 2016. Before taking his current job in 2017, he was a paraprofessional and assistant track coach at North, where he coached the team that broke one of the Cadillac Crew’s records. He also earned a master’s degree in sports administration at IU and is now working on his dissertation for a doctorate in the same subject.
Hanks is a member of Second Baptist Church, and volunteers with the Krimson Leadership Academy at his fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi. “It’s important to me that I give back,” he says.