January 21, 2009 — University of Virginia President John T. Casteen III wrote the following message today for the University community:
Jack Blackburn, our great friend and colleague, died at home last night surrounded by his family.
There are many glowing words to describe Jack and his career. The Cavalier Daily wrote a good number of them on its editorial page yesterday. I would like to add to the work they began.
When we hired Jack in 1979 as an associate dean, he was already the best-respected admission officer in the state of Virginia. Over the years his reputation spread across the country and to the numerous foreign countries he visited for us.
He built solid relations with schools everywhere. His period as dean saw unprecedented cooperation between our feeder schools and the University, with the result that we have seen constant improvement in the quality of each subsequent class. He built each class with careful attention to the talents of students from every conceivable background -- students whose common qualities have been uncommon intelligence, personal integrity, and ambition.
His leadership in the recruitment of international students, students from across this country, and especially Virginia students of diverse backgrounds, and in recent years students from every economic background, has transformed our student body.
Jefferson imagined our University as an attraction for students from everywhere, and he admired talent and ambition above any kind of entitlement or privilege. Jack made the University what Jefferson intended it to be.
That is one of the grand accomplishments of the last 25 years in American universities. The credit belongs to Jack.
Jack was simply the very best anyone has ever known.
For many of us, a relationship with Jack transcended the daily business of the University. Jack and Betty and their children were family. We will miss Jack's presence, and especially his grace, in our community.