Eloise and Carlton Blanton love to share memories – with many details and specifics –of the principals and school leaders that mentored them throughout their two extraordinary careers as educators. She recalls Joe Bethel, principal at Loma Vista, who told her to “speak up!” She speaks lovingly of Carrie Haynes, then in the LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District) regional office, who encouraged her to pursue a principalship. Carlton remembers his basketball coach at Cal State Los Angeles, Saxson C. Elliott, who later became a department chair and gave Carlton his first teaching job at Cal State LA.
In many ways, those memories led them to give a gift which will prepare a new generation of school leaders to be just as impactful.
The Dr. Carlton and Eloise Blanton Endowed Scholarship at USC Rossier School of Education will specifically support students who aspire to be school principals. The Blanton’s generous gift of $160,000 to USC Rossier will support the studies of students who, as the Blantons put it, “have resiliency, bounce back from adversity, are good listeners, and are highly motivated.” The Blantons care deeply about supporting those students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford a USC education. “We have always wanted to do this,” they say.
Because for these two – who refer to one another as “my best friend” – their lives together and as educators were greatly shaped by USC. Eloise Blanton is a hometown girl, whose father owned property in USC’s neighborhood. Carlton is Texas born and raised, and for the key high school years, he pretty much raised himself. He moved with his parents to Southern California in 9th grade but, not feeling challenged in his new school, convinced them he could go back to Texas alone. From the age of 14, he lived on his own in the house they had left behind and went to school, graduating #2 in his high school class at age 16.
The Blantons met at a USC fraternity party when she was a Trojan undergraduate and he was at Cal State LA. Carlton loves to tell the story of his wife arriving with USC sports superstar Don Buford, but accepting her ride home from Carlton, who impressed her parents by getting her home ahead of her midnight curfew. The two have been side by side ever since. Both got their first jobs in LAUSD in 1964, she at West Vernon School, he at Carver Middle. They married in 1966.
Eloise followed Carlton to Cal State LA, where he was ultimately chair of the health sciences department. It was at Cal State that she received both her Masters degree and her administration credential in l974. After graduating, Eloise built a noteworthy career as an educator in LAUSD, starting as a teacher and later a reading specialist, resource guide, district consultant, assistant principal, and principal. She was on the team that first integrated ten K-6 schools in LAUSD.
Carlton acknowledges that he learned from USC’s best. He recalls special mentors during his doctoral program at the School of Education, which he completed in 1987. Dr. Earl V. Pullias, one of the founding faculty of USC’s department of higher education, for whom Rossier’s internationally known research center is now named, was Carlton’s first advisor. When he retired, William Millington took on the role, including chairing his dissertation. Carlton doesn’t hide his admiration for them and other faculty.
“USC is so impressive,” he says. “They are always striving for excellence.” The Blantons see that same excellence in the current leadership at the USC Rossier School. Eloise was on the team that interviewed Dean Karen Symms Gallagher when she was approached to take over the Dean’s chair in 2000. Both Blantons were very impressed. They believe deeply in Rossier’s own vision, that all children can learn. According to the Blantons, they just need “tender loving care with good teachers and good school leaders.
“We also love the research orientation that the Dean has brought to the school,” says Carlton. “Plus, she is a great fundraiser and that is crucial. If you don’t have leadership in that area, then you don’t have resources to do the important work.”
The Blantons’ endowed scholarship demonstrates their own commitment to supplying the resources to do the important work. He proudly recalls his own professional days as a school leader, and is eager to contribute to the education of many more such administrators. Educating young people, he says, “really is a challenge…if you do it correctly.” They both love to quote Dean Gallagher, who shared a personal credo in one of their first conversations. “Don’t always look in the rearview mirror. Look forward.”
Carlton and Eloise Blanton, several decades into impressive education careers, are still looking forward.