Joseph Blair will be the 2015 keynote speaker at the convocation recognition ceremony for the University of Arizona College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. The ceremony will be held on May 15 at 7 p.m. in the McKale Center. Blair, a former UA and professional basketball star who runs a nonprofit in Tucson, recently returned to the UA after almost 20 years to complete his B.A. degree.
In his speech to the new SBS graduates, Blair said he will share his tools for success, which he says “are more life lessons than anything. Things I’ve learned from my travels about what it takes to be successful.”
Blair was a star basketball player for the Wildcats from 1993-96 and was a starter on the UA squad that advanced to the 1994 Final Four. For the next 13 years, Blair played professional basketball in Europe and twice for the Harlem Globetrotters.
After retiring from basketball in 2009, Blair returned to Tucson and created the Blair Charity Group, which serves youth by offering high-quality, year-round programming that promotes teamwork, leadership and community service in a sports-based setting.
Blair’s nonprofit offers a professional basketball camp experience to youth who may not otherwise have this type of opportunity. The camp also helps youth build skills off the court, including financial literacy, social media responsibility, and life skills. In addition to the summer camps, the charity now offers monthly clinics, expanding its reach to more than 1,000 kids a year.
When Blair attended the UA in the 1990s, he had a son and was ineligible to play basketball his last semester due to poor grades. Not finishing his degree bothered Blair and eventually spurred him to return to the UA.
“It was something on my bucket list from day one,” said Blair. “With my work in the community and as much as I am pushing education to our youth, how can I preach something I haven’t done myself?”
Blair also wanted to combat “the myth that as athletes we don’t care about our education and that we’ll never come back and finish.”
When Blair returned to the UA as a student, he also was welcomed back to the Wildcats basketball team as an undergraduate assistant coach for the 2013-2014 season. Blair obtained a degree in 2014 in General Studies with an emphasis on social behavior and human understanding. For the 2014-2015 season, Blair was graduate assistant coach for the team and started a graduate program in educational leadership.
Blair’s future plans include basketball coaching and working to help the community that “embraced” him when he was a student. In addition to running his charity, Blair is active in several nonprofits in Tucson. He is president of the African American Initiative run through the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona, is on the Commission for the Tucson Convention Center, and is on the boards of the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona and the Fund for Civility, Respect and Understanding.
Blair, the father of three children, says that getting involved in your community is essential. “Part of being in a community means being a part of it, not just living in it. Doing the work that makes a community better.”
Blair says he is honored to be a part of the SBS convocation ceremony and to celebrate “the significant contribution these students have made to their lives and their community.”