The Passing of a True Wise Elder

March 28, 2018
Cassandra Vieten, IONS President

Monday night I received the news that our beloved Bob Blackstone had passed away.

A passionate advocate for IONS, an IONS Community Group leader for 25 years and one of the leaders of the overall IONS Community Group Network, a long-standing member of IONS Board of Directors, and a role model for all, Bob lived an incredible life. He was responsible in part for the recycle bins you likely have in front of your house. He marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at Selma, and was at the “I Have a Dream Speech.” He was a peacemaker, a historian, and an interfaith, intergenerational, and interracial bridge builder his entire life. Most of all he was a loving, kind, and strong man who walked his talk. For me, Bob was a true wise elder in every sense of the word.

Bob dearly loved his family – his son Eric, his daughter Karen, and his six grandchildren. He delighted in spending time with them and the feeling was mutual! He loved having fun, and often planned family trips and adventures with his SacIONS Community Group.

Bob was born into a missionary family in China where his father served in WWII as a Chaplain to the famed Flying Tigers, for whom Bob was official mascot at 10 years old. He returned to the U.S. for his education and earned a graduate degree in Theology from Princeton Seminary. Following his degree at Princeton, he served as campus minister at the University of Pennsylvania, initiating innovative programs such as developing the concept of church coffee houses for music, creativity, and conversations which became popular across the U.S.

He then received a Ph.D. in Political Science from USC with a double major in Asian Studies, following which he was a professor at USC, UC San Diego, and Loyola Marymount. He worked for the State of California in the Auditor General’s office and then as Research Manager in several environmental agencies at CAL-EPA, helping establish the largest recycling and waste reduction program in California’s history. Bob also developed a program assisting businesses in marketing new environmental technology which received Harvard University’s award of “Best New Program in Government.”

Over 25 years ago he and his wife Carolyn discovered IONS and founded and coordinated the SacIONS Community Group. Bob was a founding member of the IONS original community council and ever since has been serving IONS in a number of capacities.

Bob’s sister Tahdi Blackstone, long-time leader of IONS Los Angeles Community Group, shared that IONS was one of the most important things in Bob’s life. Just over a week before his death, at Founders Day on March 18th, he attended a ceremony at IONS EarthRise Campus to honor him and others as major contributors to IONS, with his and his late wife Carolyn’s name inscribed on a recognition wall. Bob was also ecstatic about the student-organized March for Our Lives which took place last Saturday, expressing his joy with fellow activist and IONS member Belvie Rooks on Monday from his hospital bed.

All of us at IONS lend our hearts to a peaceful passage for his spirit, and hold his loved ones in our prayers.


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