Blanchart and his wife, Eleanor, were recognized earlier this year for their $1 million gift to UNF. Instead of buying an expensive boat after his retirement, Blanchart said he decided to finance a "Scholar Ship" with UNF students as its crew.
The Blancharts actually have been working on their boat since 1989 when the couple established a scholarship endowment at UNF for students who graduated from Bishop Kenny High School. It was the first scholarship endowment established at UNF to utilize the state of Florida's matching gift program.
Over the years, the Blancharts have added to this endowment. With the couple's most recent gift and future matching funds, the value of their endowment will reach $2.2 million.
The crew of the ship has also expanded. Eligibility from five high schools was added this year, including Bishop Snyder, Episcopal, St. Joseph, Trinity Christian and University Christian. To date about 28 students have crewed Blancharts' ship, many setting sail on their own careers in such fields as journalism, physical therapy, veterinary medicine and elementary education.
The "Scholar Ship" is only the latest vessel Blanchart has captained in a distinguished career. After serving as a deckhand and officer on a number of vessels, he received his first command as a captain when he was 28. He traveled around the world including many trips to Africa, China, Japan, India, Europe, the Persian Gulf and South America.
Blanchart married Eleanor in 1958 after a long courtship interrupted by many trips at sea. Those periods away from home eventually persuaded Blanchart to consider a job as a river pilot. He spent nearly 30 years on the St. Johns River making more than 10,000 trips from the sea buoy to downtown Jacksonville. "I thoroughly loved the job of ship handling. No two vessels are alike," he recalled of the many different types of ships he guided down the channel in all types of weather.
His career success, coupled with successful financial investment in the stock market, resulted in the latest chapter of his life with a scholarship endowment. The Blancharts treat the scholarship recipients as members of an extended family, personally meeting with students and their families. On one occasion they attended the wedding of one of their students.
Although the crew on their "Scholar Ship" is constantly changing, Blanchart maintains one constant as its captain. He and Eleanor are eager to set as many students as possible on the right course to success.
(Mr. Blanchart died in June 2009. Mrs. Blanchart died in August 2011)