Robert ‘Bob’ Blanton Celebrates 50 Years of Service at Gaston College: Study Tours Program Renamed in His Honor
“Dad told me if you find your niche you will know it, and when that happens you need to stick with it,” said Robert (Bob) Blanton, who celebrated 50 years of employment at the Gaston College employee appreciation luncheon held Friday, February 7.
Blanton and over 60 employees, including retiring Gaston College president Dr. Patricia Skinner, were recognized for their years of service ranging from five to fifty years.
“It was my privilege to present Mr. Blanton with a proclamation to honor him for his accomplishments, valuable service and leadership shared with employees and students at the College,” said Dr. Skinner. “He is an outstanding individual and a dedicated instructor with an unbelievable sense of humor.”
She added, “He’s an innovative instructor, that’s why it’s also important that we acknowledge the depth of his contributions to our institution and the people of the surrounding regions by proclaiming that the Gaston College Study Tours Program will now be known as the Bob Blanton Study Tours Program at Gaston College.” Blanton also received a certificate of service and a gift card for $275.
In 1969, Blanton was hired as an adjunct instructor after he earned a master’s degree in Social Sciences with a minor in Junior College and a bachelor’s degree in Social Studies from Appalachian State University. During his first year at Gaston College, he found his niche, his passion for teaching, and the next year he accepted a full-time teaching position at the College.
“If you had told young Bob Blanton that he would be a teacher and a history teacher at that, he would have laughed. I hated history in school,” said Blanton.
“In college, I was fortunate to have an older female professor who lit a fire underneath me in her class. She taught me that history is not about dates or a list of facts but it’s about people,” he said. “She was a role model who taught me to always give your best to your students. I believe teaching is like the ministry, it is a calling. It comes natural to me.”
While working at Gaston College, he completed coursework in anthropology at the University of North Carolina–Charlotte, the Universidad de Guadalajara, and the University of Colorado, with further coursework in Latin American Studies at the University of the Americas in Puebla, Mexico.
In 1972, he accepted the position of Chair of the Social and Behavioral Sciences and instructor of History. Blanton created and became the director of the Gaston College Study Tours Program in 1978. This program has involved hundreds of students, college staff members, and local community participants. Students have the opportunity to earn college credit while traveling abroad, while community participants not interested in college credit may audit any overseas travel course. The program has successfully visited hundreds of cities in 84 different countries on six continents.
Blanton also helped create the local college chapter of Gamma Beta Phi National Honor Society in the early 1980s, serving as its Faculty Advisor for 30 years, and the Anthropology Program at Gaston College, which included archaeological field schools co-sponsored by UNC-Charlotte and the Schiele Museum of Natural History.
In addition, Blanton is a founding member of the Gastonia Sister Cities Committee and continues to serve on its Board of Directors. He often takes college Study Tours to Gastonia’s two international “Sister Cities,” Gotha, Germany, and Santiago de Surco, Peru. He is also an active member of the Global Imprints Committee, having given various presentations for students and faculty during Global Imprints events at the college.
“I enjoy working at the College or I wouldn’t have stayed,” said Blanton. “I get up in the morning and look forward to going to work. I enjoy my fellow colleagues and the interaction with my students. Anything else would be foreign to me; it is a necessity for me to be happy and accomplishing something,” said Blanton.
“I believe we all keep learning. Sometimes I learn more than my students,” he said. “Being a teacher, you must keep the material fresh and change your lesson plans as needed. I put in great effort to see history from my student’s eyes. I do not dumb courses down. Quality must be there. Standards must be met so students can progress and learn.”
Blanton is still going strong and has no plans to retire. He still enjoys teaching and plans to continue as long as he can. So, what is his secret to longevity as a Gaston College employee? “I made a decision to create a life I wouldn’t want to take a vacation or retire from. And I did it.”
This spring, Blanton will be leading a study tour to the ‘Kingdom of Morocco’ from May 17 -28. The 10-day tour will include a visit to the northern Mediterranean Coast. More information is available in the latest issue of Globetrotters, a newsletter publication of the program highlighting upcoming spring and fall trips. Go to www.gaston.edu and click on Quick Links. Scroll down in the other column and click on Study Tours. You can also contact Bob Blanton at Blanton.Bob@gaston.edu.