Fitting Tribute: $1.5 Million Given for Scholarship Support to Honor Blackburn

January 16, 2009

Update: On Jan. 20, Jack Blackburn passed away. He was 67.


January 14, 2009 — Friends, colleagues and admirers have donated more than $1.5 million to a scholarship fund established in honor of retiring University of Virginia admissions dean Jack Blackburn.

The John A. Blackburn Endowed Scholarship for AccessUVA will support the financial aid program, which meets 100 percent of need for academically qualified low- and middle-income students seeking to attend the University. The lowest-income students — those from families whose incomes are at 200 percent of the federal poverty line or less — receive loan-free aid packages; all others with demonstrated financial need have the amount of their loans capped.

Blackburn was a driving force behind the establishment of AccessUVA, making the scholarship fund a fitting tribute as he steps down in June after more than 23 years as U.Va.'s dean of admission. Then-dean John T. Casteen III hired Blackburn as an associate dean in 1979, and Blackburn was appointed dean in 1985.

"For nearly a quarter-century, Jack Blackburn has selected the students for each year's entering class with steadfast wisdom and uncommon integrity," said Casteen, now U.Va.'s president. "He is one of the most respected and highly regarded deans of admission in the nation. Within the University, he is a beloved colleague and friend who has worked tirelessly to build strength in our student body while ensuring access to education for students everywhere. This scholarship will sustain Jack's commitment and benefit future generations of University students."

Blackburn has been a passionate, forceful and effective defender of access to higher education, not only opening wider the doors of the University to all qualified students — regardless of race, gender or family income — but also seeking them out and inviting them to apply.

Blackburn, 67, announced last year that he will retire in June, ending a three-decade career at U.Va. Casteen and other Blackburn colleagues quietly began raising money to endow the scholarship in his honor.

"The response has been incredible," said Gordon C. Burris, senior assistant to U.Va. President John T. Casteen III, who is overseeing the effort. "It's a tribute to Jack and a tribute to his service and commitment to the University of Virginia."

In October, Blackburn received U.Va.'s Thomas Jefferson Award, the highest honor the University bestows upon a member of its community.

Part of the Jefferson Award citation read: "Through his many years of service, Mr. Blackburn has sustained a strong commitment to diversity and to fair access for all students, regardless of their financial means. ... He believes and acts on the principle that all students who are academically qualified should have the opportunity to pursue a superior university education."

The award goes on to commend not only Blackburn's role in establishing AccessUVA, but also his advocacy for affirmative action in admissions, his recruitment of qualified minority and low-income students, and his decisions to end U.Va.'s early admission program and join the Common Application — measures intended to broaden and diversify the University's applicant pool.

Donations to the Jack Blackburn Endowed Scholarship can be made payable to "U.Va. John A. Blackburn Endowed Scholarship" and sent to:

University of Virginia
Office of Development and Public Affairs
Attn: Gift Accounting
P.O. Box 400807
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4807

Donations are also accepted online at Please specify "John A. Blackburn Scholarship" in the "Special Instructions" box.