Elias Blake Jr., a nationally known advocate for blacks in higher education and a former president of one of Atlanta’s most prestigious black colleges, has died at the age of 77, his friends said.
He was found dead at his Washington home on Sunday, said Tola Thompson, a friend. The cause of his death is believed to be natural, Thompson said.
Blake attended segregated schools as a child in Brunswick, Ga. He earned a doctorate from the University of Illinois in the 1950s, a time when there were so few blacks on campus “you needed a guide to find them,” he would later say.
In search of ways to motivate disadvantaged high school students, Blake helped create Upward Bound, the national program aimed at recruiting low-income and first-generation college students. He became the program’s Southeast deputy director, guiding the project’s efforts on 15 campuses.
In the 1970s he became president of the Institute for Services to Education, a now defunct policy group that helped develop programs for colleges to attract and retain black students. Emerging as a national leader on education issues, he met with President Nixon to discuss ways the federal government could assist historically black colleges and was named an adviser to President Carter on the inequities of blacks in higher education.
He left the Washington-based group in 1977 to become president of Clark College in Atlanta, a prestigious historically black institution. He led the school for 10 years, overseeing the launch of its mass communications program and laying the groundwork for its merger with Atlanta University. A music aficionado, he also helped develop a black college jazz network.
“He was so quiet and so normal, no one knew how much he did,” said Gloria Scott, a former Clark College vice president. “He was probably the single most important individual who helped influence educational policy in the last three decades. It was his research and development work that started all this.”
Friends say all his work ultimately seemed to return to his core focus: Fighting for respect and parity for blacks in education.
“He was always focused on the issue,” said Frederick Humphries, a longtime friend of Blake and former president of Tennessee State University and Florida A&M. “When you engaged him in a conversation, he was talking about something that was significant to the advancement of African Americans.”
Blake’s funeral is scheduled for Tuesday at 11 a.m. at the Rankin Memorial Chapel on Howard University’s campus.
– Associated Press
© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com