Callan Blount: ’06 Graduate Makes a Difference Right From the Start

Oct. 1, 2006 -- When Callan Blount sees a problem, she steps up to provide a solution. Whether it’s helping inner-city schoolchildren master the English language or improving the student experience at the university she loves, the newly minted U.Va. graduate doesn’t wait for others to make it happen.

Take, for instance, her decision to support the South Lawn Project, a new complex planned for the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. Early in her fourth year, she began thinking about what she could do to enhance undergraduate education at the University. A major gift for the South Lawn, with its combination of state-of-the-art classrooms, faculty offices, and meeting space, seemed an ideal way to shape the future of academic life on Grounds.

“The South Lawn, to my mind, is going to be the most significant project for the University in my lifetime,” said Ms. Blount, who sees a dire need for additional space in the College. “I loved my experience at the University, but classes are too crowded, faculty are being pushed out of offices, and if things continue as they are, the kinds of students the University has been privileged to attract will start going to other schools.”

The University first attracted Callan Blount when she was in seventh grade. Accompanying her father and older sister on an admissions tour, she was impressed by the rich sense of tradition, the beauty of the Grounds, the respect for honor, and the students’ obvious love for the place. All added up to a perfect fit for the young Dallas resident. Her gift for the South Lawn, one of the largest ever made by a member of a graduating class, stems from a desire to uphold those qualities that drew her to U.Va.

Once she arrived, Ms. Blount immersed herself in University life. She wrote a column for the Cavalier Daily, served on the Inter-Sorority Council, and was elected president of her sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta. She thrived in the intellectual environment. Although interested in literature and psychology, she pursued a religious studies major, recognizing that religion offers an ideal window for viewing other cultures and other ways of thinking. Amazed at the dedication of the department’s faculty and the genuine care exhibited by the graduate teaching assistants, she found herself in a community she describes as “brilliant and open-minded.”

The experience made a deep impression. In fact, it was Charles Marsh’s class on “The Kingdom of God in America,” which traces the role of religion in major social movements, that inspired her to enter the Teach for America program. Just weeks after taking her degree in May, she joined 500 other new college graduates in six weeks of certification training in the New York City schools. As a Teach for America participant, she will spend the next two years teaching English as a Second Language to elementary school students in the Bronx.  At the same time she will work toward a master’s degree in education.

“There is a huge education gap in this country,” said Ms. Blount as she reflected on her decision. The problem can be solved, she believes, but only if she and others who share her conviction do their part to effect change. “I just want to make a difference, and I hope to use whatever capabilities I have to do so.”