During Frank Blackington III’s nearly 20 years as Pitt-Johnstown president, two things were campus constants, university leaders recalled Thursday.
Blackington himself and “change.”
The school’s longtime leader walked the campus daily, often logging seven-day workweeks.
During his tenure, the school grew from 2,200 to 3,100 students and the Living Learning Center, Sports Center and Student Union expansion saw completion, longtime colleague Lowell Shaffer said.
And inside UPJ’s halls, nine new degree programs were added, including chemistry, business economics and computer science, as the school moved into the computer age.
“A lot of what UPJ is today, Frank played a huge part in,” said Shaffer, the school’s former student affairs vice-president.
Blackington, 84, died Tuesday in Duxbury, Mass. The Vermont native called Massachusetts home since retiring from UPJ in 1993.
He arrived at UPJ in 1974 as the school’s third president.
A former Michigan State administrator, Blackington was one of nearly 225 applicants for the post, according to Tribune-Democrat archives.
He arrived at a time when the young, growing campus was overfilled to the point that 60 students had to be lodged in Richland Township motels.
“I don’t see any long-range problems,” he told the newspaper a month after taking the helm at UPJ.
In the years that followed, nine residence facilities, including the Living Learning Center, were added to the more than 600-acre campus.
“During his administration, Pitt-Johnstown transitioned from a small commuter college to one that was increasingly residential,” said current President Jem Spectar. “It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of our friend.”
Blackington understood that the college had to grow from its curriculum catalog out, Shaffer said.
“When you look at the biggest thing a college can do, the main thrust is that catalog – the education programs it offers,” he said. “And Frank was attuned to that.”
Blackington also looked beyond campus borders.
He loved the area, Shaffer said. And he understood UPJ should be a key partner.
In 1977, when floodwaters covered Johnstown’s streets for the third time, Blackington opened the campus to nearly 1,000 people.
More than 400 were displaced Johnstown-area residents, Spectar said.
Blackington chaired several Johnstown-area boards and championed economic development causes.
His “Shaping the Future” campaign collected $16 million for the area. He sponsored a technological training center for the unemployed and was “instrumental” in the creation of Concurrent Technologies Corp.’s predecessor, the National Center For Excellence in Metalworking Technology, Spectar added.
“Frank had a handle on the entire community. He knew how to make things happen ... and how to get creative and do more with less,” Shaffer said.
Blackington stepped down from the president’s chair in late 1993 but remained active as a fundraiser afterward.
When the school built a computer science building in 1995, it was named Blackington Hall in his honor.
It now serves as an administration and classroom building.
A funeral service for Blackington is being held in his hometown. An obituary can be viewed at macdonaldfuneralhome.com.
Blackington is survived by his wife of 53 years, Rosella (Schatz) Blackington, a son, daughter, grandchildren and numerous nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews.
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