Blackburn named chief of staff for Office of the President
Former marching band member brings leadership skills honed at Ohio State
The Ohio State University
A veteran leader with more than two decades of experience in higher education and the private sector is headed back to The Ohio State University to serve in the Office of the President.
JR Blackburn joins Ohio State Monday (Oct. 5) as President Kristina M. Johnson’s chief of staff. Blackburn earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Ohio State and has an MBA from Franklin University. He is also a former squad leader of The Ohio State University Marching Band.
“It’s such an honor to return to Ohio State and to serve in a position that allows for the opportunity to help shape the future of the university,” he said. “It’s a place that I love deeply and I feel provided so much to me as a person. As a young student, my time at Ohio State shaped me into the individual I am today.”
As chief of staff, Blackburn will serve as a key partner in the president’s executive leadership team and will help develop and implement the strategic goals of the university. Blackburn will also act as a visible representative for the president in the university community, in central Ohio and across the state.
“I’m an experienced collaborator, I’m a communicator and I’m a translator,” he said. “By that I mean I can see the big picture perspective and I work hard in order to make sure that everybody who is on the team is understanding the direction we are headed in as an organization, and I’m bringing everyone forward to that place.”
Blackburn joins Ohio State from the University of Maryland, where he was associate vice president for University Development. He served as the assistant vice president for Development at Ohio University in Athens and as director of the Office of College Relations & Advancement at Hocking College in Nelsonville.
In his hometown of Nelsonville, his family operates a 75-year-old home furnishing business. He is the first in his family to graduate from college. Blackburn also served as president and chairman of the Parade of the Hills festival, which was instrumental in revitalizing Nelsonville’s historic downtown.
These experiences with a family-run business and building a much-loved community festival informed his commitment to access and engagement.
“I thought it was my responsibility to help provide opportunities for others,” he said. “We brought in Sesame Street characters and we brought the Columbus Zoo and Sea World to Nelsonville. Because children in this community didn’t have the accessibility to these opportunities. And we did it year over year over year.”
He said he sees Ohio State’s role as a critical partner in a much larger community, recognizing how significantly the university impacts the Buckeye state.
“I think at this time, we have to make sure that we are focused on being a good citizen, not only to universities like ours, but to our own hometown,” he said. “We need to make sure we’re forming partnerships within the communities we serve and that the university’s vision is articulated because the work we do impacts Ohio in such a great way. And if we’re doing those things, then I think our students, faculty and staff are served well.”
Blackburn also remains connected to his Buckeye roots. He has served multiple terms on the TBDBITL Alumni Club Board of Governors, still participates in the alumni band reunions and remains an active trumpet player.