Alpha Blackburn

Donor highlight: Alpha Blackburn

President and CEO of Blackburn Architects. Award-winning designer. Businesswoman. Civic leader. Television personality. Community volunteer. There are many descriptions that can be applied to Alpha Blackburn.

Add philanthropist to that list, with the most recent example being the Alpha Blackburn Scholarship for the Arts at Herron School of Art and Design.

The scholarship will be given to incoming freshmen who exhibit outstanding talent, with special consideration given to students from underrepresented populations, including but not limited to students with diverse cultural experiences, African American students and financially challenged students.

The scholarship will help Herron recruit and retain a diverse student population.

Thirteen percent (or 112) of Herron’s 844 degree-seeking students self-identify as minority or underrepresented. It’s a school priority to provide faculty mentorship and peer support to help these students feel comfortable in an inclusive environment.

With an average amount of unmet financial need for all Herron undergraduate students of $3,500, it’s evident that scholarship support also is a key factor in student success.

Blackburn places a high value on art and design education. Herron’s Kim Hodges sat down with her for a Q and A session to find out more.

Students at Herron will feel their life experience expand, not just from their classroom and studio work, but the rich diversity of a student body that will inform their understanding of the world with new perspectives.

Alpha Blackburn

Q: Why is support of the arts and culture important to you?

Blackburn: My support of arts and cultural organizations derives from my appreciation of how they enrich my own life and positively affect the way others experience our city and state. It goes without saying that none are without need of support, financial and otherwise.

Q: How did your new scholarship at Herron come to be? What do you hope to accomplish through this gift?

Blackburn: I am an artist and a designer of both interiors and fashion, and my late husband, Walter, was an artist and architect. He designed Herron’s original sculpture and ceramics facility on Indiana Avenue, now the Eskenazi Fine Arts Center. We loved working as artists. Walter actually took classes at Herron as a child. Funding a scholarship at Herron was a natural choice.

The scholarship is an effort to support and encourage young artists, and grew out of our concern to expand the reach of The Walter Blackburn Scholarship Fund within the universities of Indiana. Herron will identify deserving students and we will get to meet and encourage the students, thus effectuating our purpose. I see it as a win-win!

Q: Did you receive scholarship support as a student? If so, what did it mean to you?

Blackburn: Yes, I did. I know the value of scholarships firsthand. I am the youngest of a family of eight, and would not have attended college had I not won a national competitive scholarship to Howard University in our nations' capital. I graduated with a B.A. in Design and an M.F.A. in Painting and Art History.

Q: Your scholarship criteria gives preference to underrepresented populations and/or students with diverse cultural experiences. Why is important to you?

Blackburn: Students at Herron will feel their life experience expand, not just from their classroom and studio work, but the rich diversity of a student body that will inform their understanding of the world with new perspectives.

Q: What might you say to someone who is considering support of Herron students through scholarships?

Blackburn: I can attest that the gratification from having helped transform the lives of these young people is vastly disproportionate to such a small investment. I am convinced that our students will, like me, want to help the next generation of students, just as they were helped. Now that is a worthy legacy!

Bringing together donors and scholarship recipients is one of Hodges’ favorite experiences. “You never know how the exchange will play out,” she said, “but I can assure you it is always the beginning of a new relationship that touches the hearts of everyone involved.

“I have seen smiles as big as the moon and I have witnessed tears of joy. To me, this is what scholarship support is all about.”

To learn more about investing in the lives of students through scholarship support, contact Kim Hodges, Office of Development, at 317-278-9472 or