He started “cheering” in 1945 and has never stopped

Franklin Blackstone (A&S ’49, LAW ’52)
Franklin Blackstone (A&S ’49, LAW ’52)

If you ask Franklin Blackstone (A&S ’49, LAW ’52) what he did as a student at the University of Pittsburgh, be prepared to take a wide ranging tour of just about everything Pitt had to offer in the 1940s and ‘50s.

“I had a wonderful time at Pitt,” begins Franklin as he sat down to chat in Alumni Hall. “I did a lot of different things here and I enjoyed them all.”

“I started to pay it back with small gifts each year."
- Franklin Blackstone

Franklin commuted to campus each day from West View by streetcar or by hitch hiking. Yet, he still found time to be, among other things, an editor of Pitt’s yearbook The Owl, a member of the debate team, in the ROTC, president of the Inter Fraternity Council, and a representative on Student Congress. He also sang with the Delta Tau Delta Octet.

“I was even a member of the Men’s Glee Club until all the good singers came home from the war and that was the end of that,” he jokes.

However, his time spent as a cheerleader provided him with some of his best memories of his undergraduate years.

“That picture of me (above) was from 1948,” said Franklin. “There were six members, all of them men. The mascot didn’t have a name and he wore real fur.”

During the 2018 Homecoming week, the Pitt Alumni Association honored Franklin with the Roc Spirit Award. The award recognizes an individual for “his or her outstanding enthusiasm, loyalty, pride, and spirit in support of the University of Pittsburgh.”

Franklin Blackstone receives the ROC Spirit Award from PAA President Lisa Golden (Left), PAA Board Member Theresa Dupart (Right), and ROC.
Franklin Blackstone receives the Roc Spirit Award from PAA President Lisa Golden (Left), PAA Board Member Theresa Dupart (Right), and Roc.

“Franklin is a true Pitt Man—truly committed to his family, his community, and his alma mater,” Megan Smulski, Associate Athletic Director for Major Gifts said. “The Roc Spirit Award is a superb tribute to the many investments of time, talent, and treasure he has made over his lifetime to our city and to Pitt.”

Franklin had football and basketball season tickets for decades and has made annual donations to athletics and other programs for more than 40 years. He recently created a charitable gift annuity with Pitt that provides him with a steady income stream today and will eventually endow a scholarship for students who earn the right to wear the “Roc” mascot costume and/or captain of the cheerleading team.

Franklin Blackstone at his desk as the business manager of The Panther magazine in 1947
Franklin Blackstone at his desk as the business manager of The Panther magazine in 1947.

“One thing I’ve become aware of over the passage of time is that being a cheerleader is one of the best things you can do in life,” Franklin said as he was being honored at the alumni awards luncheon. “You can cheer for your spouse, children, and friends. You can cheer for organizations you are affiliated with, you can be a cheerleader for this fine University, and you can be a cheerleader for the Lord who has provided for us with innumerable blessing, each and every one of us.”

Franklin earned his share of accolades as a student. He was chosen as the Omicron Delta Kappa student of the year in 1949. The award recognizes meritorious leadership and extracurricular activities on and off campus. The award dates back at Pitt to 1916 and every ODK awardee since 1922 is honored with a stone paver on Academic Walk, which leads up to the Cathedral of Learning from Bellfield Avenue. Franklin is the oldest living member of this elite group.

Franklin crossed paths with some Pittsburgh legends. He was an editor for the Pitt newspaper when Myron Cope (A&S ’51)—long-time Steelers broadcaster and inventor of the Terrible Towel—was sports editor. And Franklin was coach of the debate team as a law student when Cyril Wecht (A&S ’52, MD ’56, LAW ’62) and former Congressman Bud Shuster (A&S ’54) were members of the team that took first and third places at the collegiate Grand National Debate Championship.

Franklin Blackstone (top row, second from left) with the 1948 Men’s Debating Association.
Franklin Blackstone (top row, second from left) with the 1948 Men’s Debating Association.

“He was very active in student congress as well as debate. I remember him debating a team from Oxford and doing very well,” said Dr. Wecht who went on to be Allegheny County Commissioner, Allegheny County Coroner, and an internationally renowned consulting pathologist. “Franklin is very bright and well respected with a good reputation.”

Franklin had a long and successful career as a lawyer, including serving for 18 months as Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania and running his own practice for decades. Much as he did as a student, Franklin was active in a wide variety of nonprofit organizations. Among other positions, Franklin has been a member of the board of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy since 1975 and, as he explains, “I was the president and head cheerleader of the Pittsburgh Concert Chorale.”

“I got a superb education at this University. I appreciated what I learned, what I was able to do, and how people treated me here,” said Franklin who was the recipient of scholarship support when he was an undergrad.

“I started to pay it back with small gifts every year,” he said. “The gifts grew over time, and then I decided to create the gift annuity which provides me an income today and will help students well into the future.”

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