I don’t usually indulge in information about the different personalities that populate the admissions profession, but today I make an exception for a true giant in the field. As long time readers already know, Mason was founded as a branch of the University of Virginia, and I received the sad news first thing this morning from our sister institution regarding my good friend, their dean of admissions.
John A. “Jack” Blackburn was the Dean of Admissions at University of Virginia since 1985 and was an associate dean of admissions there for six years before that. Jack was the quintessential gentleman – able to remain professional and polished in the face of any question. He led the charge to professionalize our field, and personally created a significant body of research that remains the basis for nearly every study in admissions. He was a tireless advocate for students, and a role model that inspired many of us to try and be better at reaching towards the best ideals of higher education.
I will deeply miss his sense of humor and wisdom – most of all that pained look of tolerance on his face when I would call his beloved UVA, “our southern campus.” I have never had a better straight man on a panel, nor one that carried more dignity and gravitas into every speaking engagement.
I know his loss is felt acutely by many, and that his work will live on in the lives he touched, too numerous to count. While there are many things I question, I have no doubt that if there is at least one admissions process that is fair and truly based on merit, he is in a far better place. Be seeing you.