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In This Issue


Gratitude prompts Jeff Blackman to establish a fellowship honoring Ron Matson

As a sociology professor, Matson inspired and guided Blackman to a successful career

Photo of Jeff Blackman
Jeff Blackman

One of the greatest experiences a college student can have is developing a relationship with a professor who dramatically influences that student’s life.

Jeff Blackman had that experience with Ron Matson, and 25 years later, he is saying “thank you” by establishing a fellowship in Matson’s name.

“My experience at Wichita State was largely driven by Ron’s leadership in the sociology department,” Blackman says. “His impact on me as a young student shaped the direction of my life, not to mention gave me a skill set that has been very important to my career.”

Matson recently was named dean of Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences after serving as interim dean for two years. When Blackman heard that news, he decided the time was right to pay tribute to Matson in a special way. He hopes that others who hold Matson in the same high esteem will contribute to the fellowship, which is a scholarship targeted for graduate students.

“I can’t think of anyone who had a bigger impact on me at Wichita State than Ron, and I can’t imagine I’m alone in thinking that,” Blackman says. “When I saw that he was named dean, I just felt that it was time to commemorate all of his experience and, hopefully, start something that can grow and support students for a long time.”

Matson was a sociology professor when Blackman earned his bachelor’s degree in that field in 1991. He was his advisor when Blackman got a master’s degree in 1995. Matson, who was chair of the sociology department from 1999 to 2012, said he cried when he learned of Blackman’s act.

About Ron Matson

Photo of Ron Matson
  • Joined faculty at Wichita State in sociology department, 1970
  • Sociology department chair, 1999-2012
  • Named interim dean of Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, July 2012
  • Appointed dean of Fairmount College, November 2014
  • Named Kansas Professor of the Year, 2011
  • Worked in anti-violence movement and served on boards of agencies serving youth and victims of violence
  • Published two books, “The Spirit of Sociology” and “One of the Guys: Masculinities in Social Context”

“I felt so humbled and so honored by that generosity,” he says. “Jeff is one of those people whose life is guided by profound values. He is someone who makes decisions almost always for the benefit of other people.”

Blackman, who lives in Dallas, recently founded a company called Bedford Lodging that develops hotels. He also has minority interest in a hotel management company called Pillar Hotels and Resorts.

He credits his education at Wichita State with giving him skills in quantitative data analysis that he used to develop an innovative formula for analyzing markets to determine where hotels should be built. He used those skills first as an employee for Wichita hotel developer Jack DeBoer, then moved to Dallas in 2001 to work for Marriott hotels before starting his own company two years ago.

Wichita State has played a big role in his life, and in his family’s life, Blackman says. His father, Doug Blackman, has served Shocker athletics for many years as a team optometrist.

“I kind of grew up with Wichita State,” he says. “I have been thinking for a while about giving back to the university in a way that reflects what it gave to me. It’s a big part of where I am today.”

Blackman’s donation will fund the Ron Matson Fellowship, targeted at graduate students who need financial assistance to complete their studies. As his own daughters, ages 17 and 19, start figuring out their futures, Blackman says he hopes they have people in their lives as inspiring as Matson.

“He’s just a real asset to the university,” Blackman says. “The bond that we formed helped open my eyes to where I wanted to go with my degree. It sparked something that I needed at that point in my life.”