John A. "Jack" Blackburn Award

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Photo of Jack Blackburn by Dan Addison

The John A. "Jack" Blackburn Award for Ethics in College Admission was established by the Potomac and Chesapeake Association for College Admission Counseling (PCACAC) in 2010 to honor the late Jack Blackburn, long-time Dean of Admission at the University of Virginia. Throughout his career, Jack served as an admirable role model promoting the highest ethical standards, integrity in our profession and equity in access to higher education. This award recognizes a member of our profession who exemplifies the qualities that made Jack Blackburn revered by his peers. 

Selection Process

A recipient is selected each year (pending qualified nominations) and recognized at the PCACAC Annual Spring Conference.  Criteria used for selection are:
  • Commitment to the high ethical standards of college admission through sustained active involvement in  the profession;
  • Dedication to promoting equal access to higher education for all students.

Membership in PCACAC is not a criterion for selection but consideration will be given to professionals in the PCACAC region.

The recipient is honored with an engraved plaque and, for one year, will keep the Blackburn Award, a perpetual plaque engraved and embossed with the PCACAC logo listing the names of all recipients.

The selection committee is comprised of members of the PCACAC Past Presidents Committee.  For questions or additional information, contact Mike Carter, Chair of the Past Presidents' Committee.

 

In Recognition of our 2022 Award Winner

Sue Rexford
Director of College Guidance 
Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School (MD)

Award presented by Mike Carter, Chair of the Past Presidents' Committee

This year’s honoree has served in a myriad of leadership positions in PCACAC and NACAC.  She led with distinction through her presidential cycle (2006-2007), served on numerous committees at the regional and national level, including chairing the NACAC national Technology Committee and was a candidate for NACAC President.  She is the recipient of the Apperson Award, PCACAC’s highest award, an honor she shares with Jack Blackburn himself.  We are delighted to award the John A. “Jack” Blackburn Award to Sue Rexford.

When preparing my remarks for this evening, I consulted many friends, colleagues and fellow professionals, so please know that this presentation is not my words only, but rather comes from a chorus of voices, who know, love and respect you.

Whether as a public school counselor, independent school college counselor, committee chair, or within the Presidential Cycle, Sue has reflected the traits of Jack Blackburn. She has served as a role model in promoting the highest ethical standards through her own actions while also encouraging others to meet those same high standards. At her core, Sue always thinks about individual students and equity. For those of us who have had the opportunity, who cannot remember a time Sue has approached us with a question that started something like, “What do you think about…?” While the question might have seemed innocently curious at first, Sue was inevitably working to get others to realize an ethical issue existed and understand its implications on students and the professionals who serve them.   There have been many a conversation about the college admission process-- sometimes about a specific college, and other times about the process in general-- where Sue expressed concern about how a situation was unfair for students, school counselors, and even admission officers. Not content to solely talk to other school counselors about issues, Sue used her influence as a leader to follow up and work to resolve the ethical conundrum.  While making this impact, Sue also led by example. Whether advocating for her top students or those who were more modest, Sue has always worked with transparency, guided by the best interests of the student and our profession.

One past PCACAC president noted particularly, “the thing that makes Sue Rexford so extraordinary is that she truly cares about students - not just those at her school, but all students looking to go to college. So many times, we've been in a conversation about the latest hot button college admission topic, and she's always thinking about the big picture and the larger ramifications, and especially how it will affect those students who aren't as fortunate as others. This comes from a genuine sense of caring and empathy for those students and families, and that's why she embodies the ideals that Jack Blackburn championed during his life and career.”

Former NACAC President and three-time PCACAC President, Jim Jump, recalls his first contact with Sue.

“When I became President-elect of PCACAC I asked for volunteers to help on the Conference Planning Committee, and I was determined that I would find a role for every single person who wanted to help.  One of the volunteers was Sue Rexford, someone I didn't know or know of.  I asked her to take charge of sessions (she and Paul Feakins, who was my local arrangements coordinator, were Jim’s first two appointees).  Jim drove up to West Springfield to meet with her, and she was amazing in all the ways we have all come to know since.  Jim says, “She possesses that rare combination of creativity, in being able to come up with original takes on perennial conference session topics, but also has amazing organizational strength and a feel for the details that make the difference in an event being successful.”  As a volunteer, she took on the Summer Institute, an idea that had been around for years but never came to fruition, and made it successful.  And, who can forget the sight of Sue (and Lisa Hill) in their CRAB HATS – in their role as Local Area Coordinating Chairs for the national NACAC conference in Baltimore! *That is coming back around again folks – NACAC 2023 is in Baltimore!

I recall one of the very first times that I met Sue.  It was at the PCACAC membership meeting at a NACAC conference.  I was introduced to Sue, who was then the PCACAC President, and she exclaimed – “Who are you? And Why Haven’t We met before?” as she handed me a drink ticket, she exacted a promise from me to get involved in the association.  That was almost twenty years ago – and Sue is still out there, seeking to get EVERYONE involved.

Another Past PCACAC President, had a similar experience, recalling “Ever since I joined PCACAC, Sue Rexford has not only been present at every conference but she's been actively involved.  Whether she simply volunteered to stand at a table to help raise money through her infamous raffles or she has been leading as President, it's undeniable that Sue Rexford is an icon within PCACAC!  So when I began having conversations with Sue, to say I was intimidated is an understatement.  However, there really was no need to be. While I was a PCACAC newbie, Sue was someone everyone knew and loved yet she took the time to get to know me as a person and a professional; a quality that also distinguished Jack Blackburn – who made you feel like you were the only person in the room when you were talking.  And if you have ever attended NACAC, you can watch the countless friends she's made throughout the country seek her out to offer her a warm hug and seek her counsel.  Sue is certainly one of the most approachable and caring individuals in our profession. 

While all of the past presidents of PCACAC and NACAC have the utmost respect for and wonderful stories about Sue – one in particular especially epitomizes the amazing person and professional that she is.  Several years ago – a student right out of UVA landed her first job as an admissions officer at American University.  Not knowing DC very well, she was a bit intrepid about the move to the nation’s capital.  Sue and her husband Rex took this young admissions officer into their home for her first month on the job and the ability to come “home” from a long day of admissions work to a home cooked meal and indulge in conversation about college admissions with Sue was simply invaluable – and an experience that helped shape the career of that individual to this day!  But that is exactly who Sue Rexford is.  She is ALWAYS looking to engage others, particularly those new to our profession.  She is an incredible mentor – who genuinely cares about not only our profession – but the individuals in our profession.  A real counselor’s counselor, Sue never fails to inquire about a person’s personal life as well as professional life.  Sue truly cares.

Having been a public school counselor for a great portion of her career, Sue has always advocated to increase accessibility to information and opportunities for all counselors as part of PCACAC’s leadership team. It has been my great pleasure to work side by side with Sue for many years on the executive board, where she has tirelessly taken on projects which have ranged from high profile (increasing diversity of the board while she was in the Presidential Cycle) to behind the scenes (working to hear and advocate for all voices as she serves as the organization’s first official Historian) to helping establish the PCACAC Endowment Fund for those underrepresented in the college admissions process.  In all these roles, Sue has consistently and tirelessly been an advocate for integrity and equity.

The John A. “Jack” Blackburn award is given to a colleague who demonstrates a commitment to the high ethical standards of college admission through sustained active involvement in the profession and offers a dedication to promoting equal access to higher education for all students.  Sue lives this standard every day.  It's an absolute joy to present this award to you Sue.  Congratulations from all of us at PCACAC!!!

 

PRIOR RECIPIENTS

2021:  Leonard Satterwhite, Senior Associate Dean of Admissions, Washington and Lee University (VA)

2020:  Joyce E. Smith, NACAC CEO (Retired 2020)

2019:  Evelyn Boyd WhiteRetired School Counseling Coordinator, Thomas Dale High School (VA)

2018:  Todd Rinehart, Vice Chancellor of Enrollment Management, University of Denver (CO)

2017:  Marty Wilder, Chief of Staff (Retired), University of Mary Washington (VA)

2016:  Dave Kraus, Director of Admission, Davidson College (NC)

2015:  Mildred Johnson, Associate Vice Provost for Enrollment Management & Director of Undergraduate Admissions, Virginia Tech (VA)

2014:  James W. Jump, Academic Dean and Director of Guidance, St. Christopher's School (VA)

2013: Valerie H. Gregory, Associate Dean of Admissions and Outreach, University of Virginia (VA)

2012: Lou Hirsh, Retired Director of Admissions, University of Delaware (DE)

2011: Shirley Bloomquist, Independent Counselor (VA)