Dean of Students John Blackshear to Leave Duke

Academic leader to become vice president for student life at the University of Rochester

In addition to his administrative duties, John Blackshear taught a popular SpringBreakthrough class on forensics psychology.
John Blackshear
John Blackshear

“John has been an incredible friend, source of inspiration, and sage advisor to many,” said Mary Pat McMahon, vice provost and vice president of student affairs. “He leaves us all – students, colleagues, families, anyone with ties to Duke – far better for knowing him.”

At Rochester,Blackshear will oversee the creation of a new division dedicated to student success and developing a campus culture of support and inclusion. 

“I’m thrilled to welcome John Blackshear to Rochester,” President Sarah Mangelsdorf said. “I have many heard wonderful things about him from his colleagues at Duke. He has a very strong record of success there and has imagined and implemented some truly innovative programs to enhance student and residential life on campus. “

Blackshear came to Duke in 2001 as a staff psychologist with Counseling and Psychological Services. He has taught forensic psychology for 13 years, supporting undergraduate and graduate student research, internships and scholarship.

He has been student ombuds, clinical director of the Academic Resource Center and academic dean in Trinity College. In that role Blackshear developed the Duke STEM Pathways for Inclusion, Research, and Excellence Fellows Program in 2017. He was one of the founders of the Duke First Generation Network, which formed the foundation for Duke LIFE, which supports low-income and first-generation students.

“Duke welcomed me with full and open arms in 2001,” Blackshear said, “and allowed me to teach, lead and care in a wide open and honest way.”

Warm and disarming, Blackshear is known across Duke not only for his leadership, teaching and compassionate manner, but also his love of Prince and his frequent sets as D.J. JBlaze.

“Duke has allowed me to grow,” Blackshear said. “It's given me opportunities to serve and to lead with authenticity. Duke has celebrated me bringing my values and my experiences and my identities to work and allowed me to use those in service of the university.”

His words resonate with students, who have used them as graduation quotes and turned them into murals.

“Students have allowed me to be a thread in their lives,” Blackshear said.

“While we're heartbroken to see Dr. Blackshear and his family leave Durham, we are thrilled for the entire Blackshear family as they embark on an exciting new adventure,” McMahon said.

Kimberly Blackshear is director of the Time Away Office in Undergraduate Education at Duke. In spring 2023, the Blackshears established the Heaton-Blackshear Innovation Grant that support staff in developing programs to serve campus.

McMahon said the Blackshears set the standard for welcome as faculty-in-residence at Duke.

“They and their children have created a home away from home for what often feels like every single East Campus residence,” McMahon said, “inviting students into their home for Sunday donuts, to the patio for late night consultations on every possible topic and question, and into the Trinity Common Room for their annual home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner.”

John will continue as dean of students through the fall semester and will teach forensic psychology as scheduled.

 “I am proud of helping create a home base here at Duke,” Blackshear said, “where students get to grapple with intellectual questions and dig into ways that they want to be meaningful in the world.”

Duke will name an interim dean of students this fall, and will launch a national search in the spring for Blackshear’s permanent successor.