The Blackstocks said they are retiring largely because they want to maintain good health for the activities they plan on pursuing during retirement. These activities will include road tripping to visit children and grandchildren next March, as well as flying to Europe to ski.
“It’s probably going to be the perfect retirement for us — children and skiing,” Robert Blackstock said. “That’s kind of how we lived our lives too.”
Robert Blackstock has been teaching at the college since 1977, while Jacquelyn has been with the college since 1990. Over the course of his 42 years here, Robert has been a professor, was involved with Institutional Advancement, coordinator and founder of Hillsdale Hostel’s weekly programs, vice president of admissions, and acting president of the college for six months. Robert Blackstock also served as the college provost for 15 years, overseeing everything from faculty curricula and financial aid, to Hillsdale Academy.
Blackstock said he appreciates the people who helped him complete these tasks. He attributed his success to “a good sense of teamwork and good skills to make it work pretty efficiently— and a good companion at home to sort through things with.”
Before teaching at the college, Robert initially planned to continue practicing law and become a judge in his hometown, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, after graduating from law school at Ohio Northern University. But late his senior year, he decided to pursue a teaching career instead.
“I needed a Plan B and I always liked the idea of college teaching, so I thought I’d give it a try for a year,” he said.
His close friend from law school, Paul Cassidy, knew Hillsdale College and suggested Robert visit it, since he was pursuing a teaching career.
“From the moment I set foot on campus, I loved the place,” Robert said. “I loved what it stood for and the people, and that has not changed since.”
Jacquelyn Blackstock came to Hillsdale because Robert was teaching at the college when they were married. For the first fews years of their marriage, she worked as a manufacturing engineer at a company in Coldwater. The company designed and manufactured clothing racks for department stores.
“It was challenging and I liked it very much,” she said.
Once they started having children, Jacquelyn Blackstock took a few years off to stay at home and take care of them. In 1989, she accepted an offer from Robert Saemann, chairman of the college’s business department, to be an adjunct statistics professor.
“I started teaching in January of 1990 and have loved it,” Jacquelyn said. “Teaching here has been a rich and rewarding part of my life.”
Having taught Quantitative Analysis and Business & Economic Statistics for 29 years, Jacquelyn Blackstock said she gets joy and satisfaction from helping a student understand the material.
“A special part of the quantitative classes is a wave of understanding that can come over a student, usually after a lot of hard work on their part,” Jacquelyn said. “As a teacher, you can almost watch it happen. That’s the joy in teaching.”
Madison Vandegrift, a sophomore, is in Jacquelyn Blackstock’s Business & Economic Statistics class and said she enjoys the real-life applicability which Jacquelyn emphasizes in her lectures.
“She uses real-world examples so that we can relate what we learn in class to actual scenarios and what this could be used for in the future,” Vandegrift said.
Provost David Whalen, professor of English, said he recalls with admiration and affection Robert’s steady hand in leading the college through the tumult of the former president’s departure. Whalen said his favorite memory of Robert “has to do with water.”
“Whether engaging in canoe wars on a staff retreat or tooling around his lake on a boat, Bob is a model of friendship and grace,” Whalen said. “Of course, the beer doesn’t hurt these memories either.”
Whalen said he is thankful for everything the Blackstocks have provided for Hillsdale College. Their love and support for the community during its best and worst times are incredible, he added.
“What the Blackstocks have brought this community is beyond measure. Many know what the Blackstocks have long contributed, but steadiness in crises, unerring good will, and apparently endless patience — these are high and rare qualities,” Whalen said. “The gifts they bestow on all around them are boundless.”
Barbara Babcock ’81 said she took Robert Blackstock’s Business Law class in 1977 so that she could help her family business, B&B Metal Sales Company, Inc. Robert Blackstock also helped out with some of the business’ legal dealings, and Babcock and Blackstock have developed a great friendship ever since.
“He’s been around this campus and I’ve been around this town all these years, and he always greets me with a smile and asks how I’m doing,” Babcock said. “He’s going to be missed. He’s just been so much a part of this school. I hate to see people retire.”
Babcock enrolled in Robert’s Leadership, Power, & Responsibilities class this semester because she knew it was popular and wanted to see Robert teach one last time on campus — especially since she was one of his first students.
“I thought, ‘I’d like to hear what Bob has to say after all these years. I’m retired, why not?’” Babcock said. “You can embody these lessons without having to learn them the hard way, he really has some wonderful advice that you can fall back on when you’re doing something.”
Like Babcock, senior Clara Fishlock said she decided to take Leadership, Power & Responsibilities because she had heard many people speak highly of him and the class. The class covers life lessons and topics that most people already know, but don’t think about. Fishlock said she has learned more about these lessons than she thought she knew.
“He really is intentional about saying the things that may seem intuitive, but that no one talks about,” Fishlock said. “Therefore, a lot of people — including myself — don’t stop to reflect on them. I’ve also learned a lot more about myself by really looking closely at these people’s character traits as well.”
Though his and his wife’s time with the college is ending soon, Robert said he admires the strength of Hillsdale’s community, and he is confident that its culture and basic goodness will not disappear.
“Nothing is forever, but this is cultural and runs pretty deep,” Robert said. “Its institutional habits are good, so we have great hope for the place, great fondness for it — and for the students.”
Robert Blackstock offered some final words of advice before leaving campus.
‘“Choose to serve the good,’ because people who don’t commit to the good tend to lack both direction and character,” Robert said. ‘“Live life fully,’ because of the tendency to confine ourselves to the status quo. Creation is so very rich. Why not enrich our lives by experiencing it?