At a time when he could have started slowing down and taking things easy, Don Blackmon decided instead to give back to his profession and the next generation of engineers, by going to work for The William States Lee College of Engineering. As an instructor for freshman engineering, an academic advisor and the director of the College’s Leadership Academy, Mr. Blackmon shared his 34 years of professional experience and wisdom, giving students insight into the study and profession of engineering. Now, after 17 years with the College of Engineering, Mr. Blackmon is retiring, having achieved what he set out to do.
Before joining UNC Charlotte in 2005 and while still working at Duke Energy, Mr. Blackmon served on the Lee College of Engineering Dean’s Advisory Board. Inspired by his experience on the Board, when it came time to retire, Mr. Blackmon looked for an opportunity to become even more involved with the College.
“I had worked with young people for years and years, as a Scout Master and through involvement at my church,” Mr. Blackmon said. “I thought working at the University would be a wonderful opportunity to influence young lives. I wanted to give students an insight into engineering. I wanted to instill a passion for engineering and show students the type of impact they could have on society as engineers.”
Mr. Blackmon earned his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from The Citadel in 1970. He then went to work for Duke Power as a junior engineer, and progressed into the roles of engineer associate, assistant design engineer, design engineer, senior engineer, and senior engineer/manager. During his 34 years at what would become Duke Energy, Mr. Blackmon held a number of positions in Duke companies, including Duke/Fluor Daniel, Duke Engineering & Services, and Energy Delivery Services.
“Having been a vice president at Duke, some people were surprised when I was willing to come here as a freshman lecturer,” Mr. Blackmon said. “But it was exactly what I wanted to do.”
As a Faculty Associate for Freshman Engineering and Advising, Mr. Blackmon introduced students to the engineering professions, conceptual engineering design process, project management tools and techniques, teamwork, diversity in thinking styles, professional and personal development, problem-solving, critical thinking, oral and written communications, and engineering tools and applications.
“I also helped them to understand that as engineering students, they were going to have to work hard and have some skin in the game,” Mr. Blackmon said. “The study of engineering isn’t easy, but it is so fulfilling and worthwhile. I tried to bring real-world engineering into the classroom. And I always thought it was important to have some fun, and we did.”
In 2011, Mr. Blackmon added the role of Director of the Engineering Leadership Academy to his job at UNC Charlotte. The Leadership Academy is an industry-funded, extra-curricular development opportunity that includes activities such as professional development seminars, team-building retreats, and student leadership capstone projects.
“The Leadership Academy was so much fun and so worthwhile,” Mr. Blackmon said. “I wish all engineering students could do it. There was so much value in getting professional engineers in front of the eyes of our students. What is still rewarding to me, is I continue to hear from many of the former students who were involved. They invite me to their weddings, tell me when they have had a baby, and let me know about a new job or promotion. We made a real connection through the Leadership Academy.”
The experience of his 16 years at UNC Charlotte was precisely what Mr. Blackmon had hoped it would be. “I had originally planned to be here for two or three years, and as I went along I kept saying ‘another two years, another two years.’ If not for some medical issues, I would probably still be saying ‘another two years.’ I loved working with our young people. It was exactly what I wanted to do.”
Cathy Blat said “We will miss Don. He was a great asset, students learned so much from him, shared his experiences and stories with the students, always professional and had a smile …
Dr. Cathy Blat, Assistant Dean for Student Experiences and Director of OSDS, said her group is certainly going to miss Mr. Blackmon. “Don was a great member of OSDS,” she said. “Through his shared experiences and stories, students and colleagues learned so much from him. He was always professional and always had a smile on his face.”
If you would like to leave a message for Mr. Blackmon, you can follow this link to a Google Sheet form.