SOLES Alumnus Has Positive Influence on Countless Students — Past, Present and Future
DAVID BLAIR ’02 (MA), ’07 (EdD) decided to go back to school to earn a master’s degree and later a doctorate degree to make sure he was on the cutting edge while running an educational nonprofit organization.
Blair was living in Orange County in the mid 1990’s at the height of the AIDS pandemic when he was invited to talk to high school students in Laguna Beach about the importance of safe sex and the prevention of STDs. The experience eventually led him to establish a nonprofit organization called Positively Speaking of San Diego, which over the course of six years connected with more than 50,000 youth as part of a collaboration with San Diego County and the majority of the 53 school districts in the county.
“I’m taking up space and I want to make the most of the space I take up,” Blair says. “I knew if I could touch one heart, one soul, it would all be worth it.”
While leading his nonprofit, Blair worked with people who had master’s degrees and PhDs and realized the best way to advance the work of his nonprofit was to further his education. So the entrepreneur from Northwestern University came to USD’s School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES), where he earned first a master’s degree and later was admitted into SOLES’ first doctorate program, earning an EdD in educational leadership.
Generally one of the oldest students in the class, Blair says he enjoyed hearing everyone’s ideas and loved presenting his own.
Here are just a few of the things he learned, which served him well at his nonprofit, in his professional endeavors at other universities, and with the future business ventures that followed. In grant writing, Blair said the first ‘no’ is never the final answer. Keep trying. Supplement your studies with liberal arts. Pay attention to both quantitative and qualitative measurements. Over deliver on what’s required. And always go above and beyond.
“I’m a finisher,” he says. “If I start something, I finish it. Nothing gets in my way.”
During Blair’s time at USD, the School of Leadership and Education Sciences couldn’t wait to move into the Mother Rosalie Hill Hall, which was still under construction. Blair graduated before it opened and was never able to attend class in the new building, but he did commemorate his time at USD by buying a seat in the 188-seat auditorium. Blair and his partner Doug Cristofo, who still remembers editing Blair’s weekly assignments in those early days, have been supporters of the university ever since.
The two recently included USD in their estate plan. Senior Director of Planned Giving John Phillips says Blair first called him to inquire a little more than a year ago.
“David let me know his intentions of making an estate commitment to SOLES and I sent him sample bequest language to provide to his attorney,” Phillips explains. “Two months later, he sent me a complete trust agreement. He and Doug are two of the newest members of the USD Puente de Oro Society.
Ultimately, this legacy gift will create the Blair/Cristofo Endowed Scholarship Fund, which will support master’s degree candidates at SOLES. David and Doug’s legacy scholarship will help change the lives of future Toreros.”
Blair says he loves SOLES and its faculty and is honored to offer support that will continue for generations to follow.
“I’ve supported the university with little amounts here and there,” Blair says. “But when we opened a new business and sold it five years later it was the perfect opportunity to leave some of those assets to USD to support and promote the classes and programs in SOLES. It’s an honor to help future students,” he says.
“It all adds up, whether you’re giving a dollar at a time or $3 a month or $5 a month or $100 a year. It makes a difference to the students,” Blair continues. “There’s one thing you can’t take away from a person and that’s an education. I was lucky to get a great education at USD and I feel lucky to give back. I wish I could give more.”
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