“I am humbled by this honor.”
California Western’s Vice President of Human Resources David Blake reacts in his customary self-effacing manner on getting the call that he had been selected to receive the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources’ (CUPA-HR) top award—the Donald E. Dickason Award.
Established in 1970, CUPA-HR’s highest honor is named after the association’s founder and recognizes an individual for exceptional leadership and service to CUPA-HR.
“Obviously, the recognition of your peers is humbling,” Blake reiterates. “I’ve been around a long time, and I've seen other people who have received this award and I just wonder how I ended up on the same list!”
CUPA-HR is made up of higher education institutions across the United States and Canada and represents professionals throughout the higher ed HR profession from large research schools to community colleges and private schools. The National Board of the organization presents this award to one person each year based upon service to CUPA-HR as well as the individuals work in higher ed and commitment to the work of higher ed HR.
“There are so many phenomenal people out there who work in large institutions—Ohio State or Harvard or Yale,” says Blake who was head of HR at Oregon State for a number of years. “But the reality is when you work in a small institution it is a place where you can do far greater work because you get to meet people daily. Large institutions you don’t do that.”
Blake, who has been in HR for more than 40 years has a simple philosophy—be visible and get out and talk to people and make connections.
“I think historically many in my profession saw themselves as the company police making sure there was compliance with a plethora of rules,” says Blake. “I don’t see it that way at all. What drove me to Cal Western was the fact that it wasn't a massive institution and I was able to run an HR department with the focus of our work being on how we can better serve our employees and what we can do to make their lives better.”
True to his word, Blake is seen daily walking the halls of California Western engaging with people, addressing their concerns or simply stopping for a friendly chat.
Outside of the law school, Blake volunteers his services to many organizations including Habitat for Humanity and currently serves as a board member for the San Diego Workforce Partnership where he helps formerly incarcerated individuals find employment.
A firm believer in the servant leadership style of management, Blake admits he is at a point in his career where he can focus on giving back to his community and the law school.
“I want to redefine HR, not as an overseer of the employee population but as a facilitator finding solutions for the law school’s great team,” says Blake. “In essence, my team and I are putting the human back in human resources.”
The award presentation will take place at CUPA-HR’s Annual Conference and Expo in Denver, Colo., October 20-22. In addition, a contribution of $6,000 will be given to a California Western endowment or scholarship fund of Blake’s choice.
“I am thrilled that I’m getting this award as a Cal Western employee because I'm proud of this institution,” says Blake. “I want people to know that it’s not just me. We’ve got people doing this stuff every day and I think it reflects well on the culture and values we hold important here at California Western.”