Q&A with Weedens E. Blanchard ’94SVC, ’97MBA, ’07PD, ’17Ed.D., Outstanding Alumni Achievement Medal Recipient

Weedens Blanchard shaking Fr. Shanley's hand
October 31, 2022

Thirty years after graduating with his first degree from St. John’s University, Weedens E. Blanchard ’94SVC, ’97MBA, ’07PD, ’17Ed.D. never truly left. Throughout a career that spans both higher education and private industry, Dr. Blanchard, who was recently honored at the Alumni Convocation on October 20, takes his inspiration from St. Vincent de Paul’s compassion and zeal for service.

He channeled that missionary zeal into his work as Assistant Dean of the Advantage Academy program, a unique partnership between St. John’s University and the New York City Department of Homeless Services, which gave formerly homeless qualified individuals the opportunity to obtain an associate degree at no cost. With St. John’s University Ozanam Scholars, he lent his expertise to the recovery efforts following Hurricane Katrina. He also serves as a Student Sponsor Partners Mentor, helping low-income and academically at-risk students break the cycle of poverty through education.

A five-time alumnus of St. John’s University, Dr. Blanchard served as a member of the President’s Society, the highest honor society at St. John’s University. For nearly two decades he has been an Adjunct Assistant Professor, both in The School of Education and The Lesley H. and William L. Collins College of Professional Studies.

Tell us about yourself and your affiliation with St. John’s University, particularly The School of Education.

I was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 1971, the eldest of four children. In 1977, my father, Mr. Emmanuel Blanchard, a minister, could sense that the country was heading in the direction of political unrest and decided it was time to leave. My father wanted to give his children a quality education and the opportunity to succeed so he packed up our family and moved to New York to establish citizenship and start a Church. Although we struggled financially for the first couple of years, my parents never gave up on the chance to provide a better life for their children. 

I attended St. Pascal Baylon School in St. Albans, Queens, and went on to attend Holy Cross High School. While at Holy Cross, I was a member of the Jazz Band and Pep Band and won the Directors Band Award in 1989. During my time at Holy Cross, I found my passion for music as a trumpet player and received a music scholarship to St. John’s University. I earned my B.S. degree in Computer Science in 1994. Prior to my graduation, I became a member of the 1993–94 President’s Society. I continued with my education and graduated in 1997 with an M.B.A. in Executive Management from St. John’s University.

In 1999, while working full time in technology, I had the opportunity to teach as an adjunct professor at Touro College, where I fell in love with teaching. This opportunity opened a door for me to become an adjunct professor at NYU. At this time, the technology space was changing rapidly, jobs were being outsourced overseas, and unfortunately, I faced three separate layoffs.

At this time, I began to reflect on my career in technology. I realized that I had a solid connection to teaching, and decided it was time to take a leap of faith and change my career full time to education. I began working full time as a business school teacher for the Computer Career Center and was working part time at NYU in 2001.

By 2003, I returned to St. John’s University, this time as a University Freshman Advisor and Adjunct Professor with The School of Education. The most significant academic accomplishment was earning my Professional Diploma in Instructional Leadership in 2007 and Ed.D. in Educational Administration and Supervision from The School of Education in 2017.

I am truly happy that I am still connected with St. John’s University as an Adjunct Assistant Professor. I have served in this role for 19 years and 10 months, primarily with The School of Education. I truly love being in the classroom as I help prepare our current students for their future careers.

I was part of the 150th Anniversary Celebration Task Force for St. John’s University. I have also worked with Aliya E. Holmes, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, on the initiative College Access for All: Middle School, an engaging and interactive curriculum designed to meet the challenge of preparing young scholars to not only graduate on time, but to at least get 80 percent of them to be college and/or career ready.

I have served on various Doctoral Dissertation Committees for The School of Education. Last, I have also served as the Chairperson for the 2018, 2019, and 2022 Higher Education Theme Roundtable at the Annual Leadership Symposium Presented by the Department of Administrative and Instructional Leadership.

How has a St. John’s education impacted your career path?

I often credit St. John’s University as my second home on my social media platforms. In 1989, I entered St. John’s University as a young man not knowing where my future lay. I’ve learned so much from my St. John’s University education, where I developed a strong passion for learning. Not many people know this about me, but I am actually a five-time St. John’s University graduate.

My St. John’s University education positively impacted and prepared me for my initial career in information technology. When I changed my career to education, many of the tools I learned from my doctoral program truly prepared me exceptionally well for my current career as a higher education administrator, adjunct assistant professor, and mentor.

Needless to say that 33 years later, after I began my education at St. John’s University in 1989, I am still learning a lot more from St. John’s University because of my current affiliations and partnerships with University faculty, administrators, and my former students.

How will you use this award to impact the lives of others following in your footsteps?

When I was notified about the Outstanding Alumni Achievement Medal, I was from the bottom of my heart surprised and humbled. I am extremely passionate about the work I do in education and mentorship. I don’t do it for any recognition because I believe in motivating, inspiring, and helping others through this field.

As a person of faith, I truly believe God intended for me to work in education because this is the area where I can be a change maker. Being a higher education administrator, adjunct assistant professor, and mentor is my purpose in life. I believe in giving back and assisting the generation that follows me.

I learned that very early on from my father, Rev. Emmanuel Blanchard, who is also a double alumnus of St. John’s University. For those that follow in my footsteps, it is my sincere hope and prayer that they pick up the mantle and continue on where I leave off.  

If you could do one thing, leave one mark on the credit profession (in the business world or academia), what would it be? 

This is an extremely good question. I’ve entertained the thought several times in the past about opening my own school for young men in Queens Village, NY, where I lived from 1977 through 1998. There are a lot of young males who need mentorship and guidance, and this school’s mission would certainly incorporate mentorship and guidance. Opening such a school would be an enormous task, but if God leads me there, then I will certainly do it.

Can you speak to a teacher/mentor who impacted or set you on your current path?

I’ve had the blessing of meeting not one, but several, extraordinary teachers and mentors at St. John’s University who have had a profound and positive impact on my life both personally and professionally.

I will forever be grateful to Professor Francine Boehrer; Lez Edmond, Ph.D.; Aliya E. Holmes, Ph.D.; James O’Keefe, Ph.D. ’79SVC; André McKenzie, Ed.D.; Professor Lawrence F. Pitilli; and Corlisse Thomas, Ed.D. Each of these phenomenal educators has helped me become the person and educator I am today—and for that, I carry each of them in my heart and mind every day.

What’s next?

This is another extremely good question. Well, there was a time when I said I would do this in 10, 15, and 20 years. Now, I take life one day at a time and I wait for God to direct my next steps. I can firmly say though that I will continue to work in higher education.

I feel in my heart that my next professional focus will involve more mentorship and guidance because this is an important area where young adults need help. I want to write, publish, present, and begin presenting on the higher education speaking circuit.

Maybe one day, there will be the Dr. Weedens E. Blanchard Leadership Academy where young men in Queens Village receive the mentorship and guidance I referenced earlier. Whatever is next, I know it will always involve education because this is my purpose in life.