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 2020 Award Winner

Joyce E. Smith
NACAC CEO (Retired 2020)

Award presented by Dr. Michael Carter

PCACAC is proud to honor this year's recipient, Joyce E. Smith.  Joyce was presented the award during our virtual 55th Annual Conference on May 6, 2020 and will also be recognized in person at our 56th Annual Conference in Virginia Beach on April 18-20, 2021.

Under her direction as chief executive officer, NACAC's membership more than doubled in size and gained national recognition for its many programs for college admission professionals -- and for its critical research, government relations work, global engagement efforts, and education and training opportunities.  While her strong leadership, keen intelligence, and wonderful sense of humor, make her a joy to work with, she is being honored for her tireless devotion to students and the counselors and admission professionals who serve them.  Joyce She has always had a deep understanding of the inequities in our work and has consistently moved the association toward increasing diversity and social justice. As the college landscape has changed, her leadership stood strong. She handled critical debates about rising college costs, affirmative action, DACA students, financial aid letters, etc. and never wavered in her advocacy for equity and access to higher education for all students. 

In the words of her many friends and colleagues:  

"She is a pathfinder, advocate, and steward for the association. You will not find anyone more dedicated to the well-being of this body of professionals. She possesses that rare, but invaluable balance of a sense of caution, which has kept NACAC focused on its core mission, and boldness, which has allowed us to speak out on issues of importance to our members and the students we serve. Most of all, she is compassionate. She cares deeply about our work, about the students who are making the transition to college, and about her staff, in whom she has invested a great deal of trust, respect, and support."

"She is so passionate about promoting college access for students and bringing together all of us who work in college admission. Her steady leadership and optimistic attitude during the DOJ inquiry were instrumental in helping us navigate those issues and helping NACAC continue its mission. Without that approach, I don't think we would have the same camaraderie and shared purpose as professionals that still seems to exist in the wake of all of that.”  

“She has artfully guided our association through challenging times with grace and care and always with an eye toward honesty, integrity and fair play.”

"She honors the vision of our founding members by promoting the highest ethical practices and professional standards with all members and their institutions."

I joined the PCACAC Leadership Team during the turmoil of the NACAC Membership change, the change from SPGP to the CEPP and then the Department of Justice inquiry on the new CEPP, and now through COVID-19.  While all of these place tremendous stress on us as individuals and NACAC as an organization, she is the rock, the constant, we all rely on. In the midst of discussion and debate, when we felt her presence in the room, we knew we'd be okay.  She has the intellect and forethought to lead on a global scale along with the compassion and care to work one-on-one.  We can all take a page from her life story and be better for it.  There aren't enough "thank yous" to extend.   Her influence will be felt for a very long time.”

“Her dedication to the profession, and all who serve students in the process, has inspired generations of school counselors, college admission professionals, and a growing number of independent educational consultants.  Her influence cannot be understated and her steady hand of leadership is felt in all aspects of NACAC’s work.”

“All of us should hope we come to the end of our tenures having left the world, or at least our little corner of the world, better than we found it.  It is hard to imagine anyone meeting that standard better than this individual has with our profession, and especially with NACAC.  She has been the common thread in NACAC's service and leadership in the college admission landscape.  I always knew she had my back and best interests of the organization in her heart.  In 2008 when the economy tanked, we were concerned about NACAC's ability to survive.  NACAC not only survived but thrived, largely due to her and her staff strategically cutting expenses but also because it became clear that those of us in the profession valued our association with NACAC.  Indeed, NACAC, the college admission and counseling profession, and each of us are better for her commitment, talent, and service.” 

“ Later this summer our honoree will retire after 30 years of leadership to the association and 44 years in the college admission profession. We are grateful for her wisdom and dedication in guiding the association for almost three decades of unprecedented change.  She has elevated the position of NACAC as a trusted source and used the opportunity to shed light on difficult underlying issues in college admission such as the role of wealth and privilege, the practice of choosing colleges based on status and brand rather than best fit for students, and fairness and equity in accessing higher education. She has led NACAC through some of its most tumultuous times as the college admission process—and the profession itself—changed.  During her first year as executive director, the association reaffirmed its support of affirmative action in response to multiple initiatives across the nation aimed at eliminating the practice in college admission. NACAC took a stand and pledged “unwavering commitment to all students’ access to college.”

During her final year, Joyce has led NACAC’s response and settlement of a Department of Justice inquiry, the Varsity Blues scandal, and the repercussions of the current COVID-19 pandemic.  At every step along the way she has been guided by her dedication to a profession that she loves, and an unwavering commitment to access and equity in the transition to higher education. 

Previous Recipients

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)