Bob Blanton retires from teaching at Gaston College—but not from the Bob Blanton Study Tours Program

Bob Blanton retires from teaching at Gaston College—but not from the Bob Blanton Study Tours Program

Bob Blanton standing near artworkBob Blanton, Chair of Social and Behavioral Sciences and History Instructor at Gaston College, was honored on Monday, July 19, 2021, at a Retirement Reception held in the Rauch Gallery on the College’s Dallas campus. Blanton is retiring on August 1 after 51 years at the College.

The reception marked the opening of an exhibition featuring photographs from the many trips that Blanton led as the director of the Gaston College Study Tours Program, which he created in 1978. The program was renamed the Bob Blanton Study Tours Program in 2020 to mark Blanton’s 50 years at the College.

After he had earned history degrees from Mars Hill and Appalachian State universities, Blanton was hired as an adjunct professor at Gaston College in 1969. He accepted a full-time teaching position in 1970.

“If you had told young Bob Blanton that he would be a teacher, and a history teacher at that, he would have laughed,” said Blanton, a native of Gastonia. One of his college professors inspired him to pursue teaching. “She was a role model who taught me to always give your best to your students,” Blanton said. “I believe teaching is a ministry, it is a calling and comes naturally to me.”

While at Gaston College, Blanton completed coursework in anthropology at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, the Universidad de Guadalajara, and the University of Colorado, and did further coursework in Latin American Studies at the University of the Americas, which is located in Mexico City.

Fluent in English and Spanish, conversant in Italian, and studying Arabic, Blanton’s love of travel is an extension of his love of history. “As a child,” he said, “I always dreamed of visiting the places around the world that I had studied and read about.” Although he cannot pick a favorite destination abroad, he names London, England, as his first stop if he were to leave home and move overseas.

The Bob Blanton Study Tours Program, now in its 43rd year, has taken hundreds of Gaston College students and community participants and more than 80 faculty, staff, administrators and Board members to over 84 different countries or principalities on 6 continents. Its most frequent destination has been the British Isles, with visits to England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. The most primitive conditions were on trips to rural China, Romania, Morocco’s back country, and the Upper Amazon River in Peru. Other tours took groups to France, Italy, Austria, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Greece Estonia, Finland, Egypt, and Argentina, to name just a few.

When asked about his most memorable study tour, Blanton replied, “Each one of our 91 overseas study tours has been unique and memorable. One that stands out is a tour we were on in Dublin, Ireland, in 1998, just after the peace accord was signed between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (which ended the ‘Troubles’ between the two). While at Trinity College in Dublin, a BBC-TV reporter spotted our group and interviewed several of our Gaston College students. They made me very proud with their comments about the end of the ‘Troubles’ and the new era of peace in Ireland.”

In 2020, the 10-day study tour to the Kingdom of Morocco was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic; it has been rescheduled for May 2022. Blanton is in the planning stage of the subsequent excursion for the Bob Blanton Study Tours Program—an Alpine Tour to Switzerland, France, and Italy.

The study tours program at Gaston College has broadened the horizons, world view and multiculturalism of its participants since it was launched in 1978. The Bob Blanton Study Tours Program will continue with that mission. Blanton quotes St. Augustine of Hippo when he says, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”

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