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Friday, June 22, 2007

Elias Blake, former President Clake College, dead at 77

Elias Blake Jr., former president of Clark College (now Clark-Atlanta University), advisor to U.S. Presidents and the Congress, and longtime education and civil rights advocate died recently at his home in Washington, DC. He was 77 years old.

Blake was a trailblazer, on the American higher education landscape, who broke new ground advocating for equality of opportunity and access to higher education for African American students during a lengthy career in higher education policy and research.

Among his many achievements, Blake is credited with several pioneering studies on reducing student attrition and improving retention and graduation rates at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Much of Blake’s research laid the foundation for the development of Title III of the Higher Education Act.

In the early 1970s he played a pivotal role in organizing a first ever meeting between a sitting U.S. President (Richard Nixon) and the presidents of HBCUs to discuss ways the federal government could better assist the colleges in serving the needs of the nation and carrying out their mission.

During his 10-year presidency at Clark College, he oversaw a period of steady growth in enrollment, programmatic offerings and the college’s finances. Blake strengthened the academic foundation of the college and made it an attractive partner for a merger with Atlanta University, forming Clark-Atlanta University.

Prior to launching full speed into his higher education work, Blake served on a design team which was responsible for creating Upward Bound, the nation’s first pre-college program.

Blake was the braintrust behind the Adams v. Richardson case which found ten states in violation of the Civil Rights Act for supporting segregated schools. The states were ordered to work actively to integrate institutions, so long as that integration was not carried out at the expense of HBCUs, which were deemed to play an important and unique national role in the education of African Americans. Adams v. Richarson forced states to make significant public investments in HBCUs and laid the groundwork for the landmark United States v. Fordice case.

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