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Blalock Set to Retire After 26 years at UW Foundation

April 5, 2022
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Ben Blalock

The University of Wyoming Foundation and UW Foundation President/CEO Ben Blalock announced today (Tuesday) that he will retire, effective June 30, following 26 years of service that has transformed philanthropy at UW. Blalock’s retirement includes his position as the university’s vice president for institutional advancement.

“The remarkable growth of UW’s private support programs is all about the team -- a team of amazing and passionate staff, external leaders who care deeply for Wyoming’s university, and an alumni base who bleed brown and gold,” Blalock says. “What a privilege it has been for me to be a member of this team for a quarter-century. I could never have envisioned when I arrived that I was embarking on a journey that would give me a front-row seat to witness UW’s transformation.”

John Stark, UW Foundation senior vice president for development, will become the next foundation president/CEO and university vice president for institutional advancement July 1.

“It’s not easy to put into words all that Ben has accomplished,” says Tom Botts, chair of the UW Foundation Board of Directors. “By any standard, he has been an extraordinary leader of the UW Foundation. The UW Foundation Board is incredibly grateful to Ben and all that he has achieved on behalf of the University of Wyoming.”

When Blalock arrived at the UW Foundation in 1996, the university raised a little more than $6 million annually and had an endowment of less than $40 million. Today, the annual five-year fundraising average is $50 million, and the endowment is $820 million -- the largest of any of the universities in the Mountain West Conference and larger than even some regional institutions with twice or three times the student enrollment.

“The university’s endowment approaching the $1 billion level, many amazing new facilities and the successful launch of new programs and initiatives are definitely a testament to Ben’s effective leadership,” says UW President Ed Seidel. “But his success in connecting with and organizing UW’s alumni and other supporters to advance the university cannot be adequately described, except to say that it’s really without precedent in the university’s history.”

Blalock’s tenure has seen incredible successes for UW’s private giving programs. In 2005, under his leadership, the foundation completed the largest comprehensive campaign in the university’s history -- DISTINCTION: The Campaign for Wyoming’s University -- raising $204 million for UW, with significant support coming from the Wyoming state matching program.

Over the past 20 years, the matching program, created by the Wyoming Legislature, has resulted in more than $222 million in matching funds coming to UW to support academic endowments, academic facilities, and athletic facilities and programs. As a result, Wyoming has become a national model for private-public partnerships.

Other notable accomplishments during Blalock’s leadership include the opening of the Curtis and Marian Rochelle Athletics Center in 2001. The $9.4 million facility was entirely paid for by private donations from 167 different donors, including a historic $4.2 million gift from the Rochelles, which was the largest donation in school history at the time.

In partnership with then-Gov. Dave Freudenthal and former Executive Director Mark Northam, Blalock also worked on the creation of the UW School of Energy Resources in 2006 and the grand opening of the $25.4 million Energy Innovation Center in 2013, the home of the school as a state-of-the-art research and collaboration facility. The launch of the school and opening of the facility transformed corporate philanthropy at UW -- delivering to the university some of the largest corporate gifts in UW’s history.

Moreover, Blalock spearheaded the fundraising campaign for the 67,000-square-foot Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center, which opened in 2014. The $35 million facility was funded entirely through private support and is home to the UW Alumni Association, Admissions and the UW Foundation. The center features state-of-the-art technological infrastructure; the largest conference and event space in Laramie; and the McMurry Foundation UW Legacy Hall, a remarkable space dedicated to telling the history of UW.

“When I reflect over the past two decades, the creation of the Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center is the crown jewel,” Blalock says. “Marian, Mick and Susie McMurry, and so many generous donors shared a dream to give UW a front door second to none. Every element of the building is a statement of the pride Wyoming has for its beloved university. What a gift it was in my career to work on a project that says it all regarding our school, our alumni and our state.”

With leadership from Wyoming Athletics, Blalock also was instrumental in the creation of the Mick and Susie McMurry High Altitude Performance Center in 2018, a renovation of the Rochelle Athletics Center with the addition of 71,000 square feet of new space dedicated to the athletic, academic and nutritional needs of UW’s more than 400 student-athletes. A total of 136 donors helped fund the $44 million facility, which included more than $24 million in private gifts and $20 million in state matching funds.

Other notable projects that were accomplished during Blalock’s nearly three-decade career include the opening of the Wyoming Technology Business Center; the construction of the UW Conference Center and UW Plaza; the opening of Prexy’s Pasture plazas dedicated to the Simpson, Sullivan and Cheney families; the naming of Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium and the creation of the Wildcatter Stadium Club & Suites; the construction of the Indoor Practice Facility; the opening of the William N. Brimmer Legal Education Center; and the creation of the High Bay Research Facility. Blalock’s tenure also saw the launch of the Governor’s Tier I Energy Engineering and STEM Integration Task Force; the Governor’s Top-Tier Science Programs and Facilities Task Force; and the Trustees Education Initiative -- programs that are key to UW’s academic future. 

Blalock also oversaw the significant growth of endowments supporting UW students, faculty and programs, increasing the number of endowments from nearly 500 to more than 1,600.

“Ben’s visionary thinking drove more than two decades of transformational growth,” Botts says. “More importantly, Ben has created many long-lasting relationships not only at UW, but across the state of Wyoming and beyond. That’s the true measure of his success.”

“When you look around campus, there aren’t many places that haven’t been positively impacted because of Ben’s leadership,” says Stark, who takes the reins of university vice president for institutional advancement and UW Foundation president/CEO at the start of the next fiscal year. “I am both humbled and honored to be following in Ben’s footsteps and building on the incredible legacy he has created at the UW Foundation. I will be forever grateful for the years of Ben’s professional partnership and friendship.”

The UW Foundation was established in 1962 by the UW Board of Trustees to raise, receive and manage private gifts to maximize support for the university. It is an independent, nonprofit corporation with a board of directors composed of up to 20 members, emeritus members and ex-officio appointments.

As a significant financial organization, the UW Foundation has developed a strong partnership with the university and the state.

For more information, call Toby Marlatt at (307) 766-5085 or email foundation@uwyo.edu.

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