Magazine On-line [fall 2011]
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Around Campus

Blankenship leaves Transylvania for Lexington Theological Seminary

Mark Blankenship

Mark Blankenship ’81 had many rewarding, sometimes humorous experiences during his 26-year tenure at Transylvania, which came to a close in early November. The associate vice president for development left the university to accept a position as vice president of advancement and external relations at Lexington Theological Seminary.

“One of the first things I learned as a young Transylvania admissions officer was how to get lost on the way to a high school,” Blankenship quipped in recalling his early years with the university. “I did that quite well on a number of occasions. We traveled a lot, and my territory included Kentucky, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area.”

That anecdote speaks to the appealing style of one of Transylvania’s much loved and respected graduates and now former staff members. Quick with a smile and a joke, Blankenship has a gregarious and easy-going personality that won many friends for the university over his nearly three decades of association with the school as student and staff member.

As an undergraduate, Blankenship majored in psychology and was president of his fraternity, Pi Kappa Alpha. He was involved with the Interfraternity Council and the Student Activities Board, and won election as Mr. Pioneer his senior year.

He was also Peppy Pioneer, a now-defunct tradition that had a student wear a coonskin cap and generate spirit at basketball games.

“I had to borrow a cap from a former Mr. Pioneer, Bob O’Brien (’79), and I dressed in jeans and suspenders to try to look like a pioneer,” Blankenship recalled. “I had a big drum I beat just

to annoy the fans.”

After graduation, Blankenship worked in admissions for several years at a Lexington business college and at Berea College. He returned to Transylvania in August 1985 as assistant director of admissions.

When he moved into the alumni office in 1991 as assistant director of programs, Blankenship began working more directly with the late chemistry professor Monroe Moosnick, who had left the science department in 1984 to become director of alumni programs and special assistant to the president. Over a 50-year career at Transylvania, Moosnick became one of Transylvania’s most well known and respected faculty members and administrators.

The working relationship Blankenship enjoyed with Moosnick is one he still draws inspiration from many years after Moosnick’s death in 1995.

“It was the essence of Monroe’s personality to care deeply and sincerely about the individual,” Blankenship said. “I learned it was a key Transylvania value and a distinguishing characteristic of anyone who’s going to be successful in admissions or advancement.”

Moosnick was also willing to do whatever was required to get the job done, regardless of one’s title.

“Monroe would see something that needed doing that was not directly related to his assigned area, but he knew it would make a difference,” Blankenship said. “That attracted me. It meant you weren’t tied down to just one kind of work. In the alumni and development office, for instance, everyone worked on the annual fund. While in the alumni position, I was given the opportunity to do things more related to development work. It was that variety of activities that was a big reason I stayed at Transylvania all those years.”

Mark Blankenship and alumni
Mark Blankenship ’81 visits with Emried Cole and Wandaleen Poynter Cole ’67 during an Alumni Weekend 2007 event.

The regeneration of regional alumni clubs—now called chapters—is an accomplishment that Blankenship takes great satisfaction in, though he is quick to say it was far from a one-person job.

“In the past, these groups were developed primarily in conjunction with a capital campaign, and when the campaign was over, they tended to go away,” Blankenship said. “We finally began to support those chapters away from the campaign mode, and now they are healthy and operating. I was there, along with others in our office, when we made that happen.”

Kirk Purdom, who came to Transylvania in 2010 as vice president for advancement, relied on Blankenship to help him get oriented to the position and to Transylvania and its traditions.

“Mark was a valuable resource for me in my transition to Transylvania,” Purdom said. “His knowledge and expertise are greatly missed by all of us who worked with him. I am grateful that he remains in Lexington and is willing to continue to share his institutional knowledge. We all wish him the very best in his new role at the seminary.”

Mark Blankenship 1981

Blankenship admits to mixed feelings at leaving Transylvania, where he had spent most of his adult life, met his wife (Kimberly Noss Blankenship ’81), and saw his three children (Kelsey ’07, Stephen ’09, and Julia ’11) educated.

“It was sad to leave a place that basically formed and educated me and my family,” he said. “But I feel good about where Transylvania is at this point, and I’m looking forward to the next chapter in my life. I will certainly continue to support the university in any way I can. I’d like to think in some small way that this is another Transylvania success story."

"Or as some of my fraternity brothers
would say, ‘Mark’s finally graduating
after 26 years.’”

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