Tom Black announces retirement

July 24, 2020
  • AACRAO Leadership and Governance
  • AACRAO News

by Mike Reilly, AACRAO Executive Director

After more than 40 years of working in registrar offices around the country, Tom Black is retiring from the profession.  He recently joined Paradigm to focus on one of his passions--digital credentials.

Tom began his registrar career at the American College in 1977, later serving as associate registrar at UNC Chapel Hill and Duke before becoming the registrar at the University of Chicago in 2002.  He later served as associate vice provost and registrar at Stanford University, and ended his registrar career at Johns Hopkins University.  Along the way he established himself as one of the most innovative registrars in the profession, particularly focusing on the development and exchange of digital records.

Being an engaged member of AACRAO often means presenting and sharing your knowledge at AACRAO meetings. On that metric, few have presented more often than Tom over the last decade.  

"I have been in a Registrar’s office for almost 40 years and whenever there was a new initiative, practice, process, platform, software solution or means by which a Registrar could support their institution in a new and meaningful way, the name Tom Black has been at the beginning of the discussion," said Mark McConahay, Associate Vice Provost and Registrar at Indiana University and a former AACRAO Board member. "Tom has been attached to nearly all of the innovative advances in the student records arena since the 1980s." 

"I am very lucky to have had the opportunity to hear, listen, learn, and collaborate with the consummate 'pro' of the student record and student service profession!"  McConahay said. "He will be missed as a full time Registrar, but he will provide great vision and insight supporting the merger of student records and our current technical ecosystem! I will again stand in line to hear his next idea!"

Tom has also been a leader in the development of the Comprehensive Learner Record, a project AACRAO has spearheaded for the last five years.

"Many of the driving ideas behind Comprehensive Learner Records can be attributed to Tom Black,” said Tom Green, Associate Executive Director at AACRAO.  “It was he who had the idea of a student being able to have her own record immediately verified, giving the learner control of her information and the ability to share that information without the intercession of a registrar, once delivered.”

“Tom was also responsible for more than one 'light bulb' moment in our work but the one I will always remember was when he demonstrated that two students with different majors in different schools of the university had remarkably similar learning outcomes and that they actually pursued career paths that crossed over those disciplinary lines," Green added. "That led to the focus on empowering students to tell their own stories and to understand at a greater level how much they were learning that we weren’t revealing to them through catalogs and transcripts.  One thing is remarkably clear about Tom’s career:  His light bulbs cast very long shadows.”

Chris Jackson, CEO and Co-Founder of Paradigm, where Tom will take his considerable experience, said, “We could not be happier to have Tom join us. His unique perspective and wealth of experience in the higher ed arena is unmatched. His passion for alternative credentials and empowering the student with a greater understanding of their educational experience dovetails perfectly with our current and long-term goals for our digital credential platform.”

“As I review my service to our profession over the past four decades,” Black said, “there is and has been one constant, one enduring strength that has sustained me over most of my professional life, and that is AACRAO.  AACRAO through its regional and national conferences allowed me to develop professionally. Many of my dearest personal friends began as professional colleagues, which remained true even when they believed my thoughts and ideas were a bit eccentric.”

“I was mentored by many, and by good fortune I was able to return the favor to others. This has been gratifying and produced abounding, and some of the fondest, memories I have. What delights me now as I change roles in my career, AACRAO and my friends that remain within it, are still part of my life. I feel blessed to know and have relationships with the wonderful staff that make AACRAO the notable organization that it is. And, I can honestly say that I would not have had the magical professional ride as I have had, and expect to continue to have, without it.”

While Tom may no longer be in a registrar’s office, we hope to continue to see him at AACRAO events in the future.