By Robert W. Dalton
John Blair was addressing well-wishers at a retirement reception on Tuesday, Dec. 7, when a question came from the back of the room.
“Can you still do a flip?”
Blair answered without saying a word. He rose from his chair and urged those nearby to move back a bit. He took one step, drove his hands to the floor, swung his feet over and stuck the landing as the crowd applauded.
Applause has been a regular occurrence for Blair, who is retiring after 35 years at the college. His last day is Dec. 17.
A New Jersey native, Blair arrived at Wofford in 1986 to coach the men’s soccer team. He coached for 16 seasons, ushering the program into the Division I era and becoming the leader in career victories with 107.
His best season came in 1994, when the team finished 14-3. Wofford started the season 3-3, then went on an epic 11-game winning streak.
“We had a great team,” Blair says. “We started 10 seniors. The players looked at every game we played like it was a tournament game. They were just a great bunch of guys.”
Blair left the soccer pitch after the 2001 season and stepped into the role of director of conference services, a position he’s held since. He worked behind the scenes to make sure countless events ran smoothly, and he brought the same fire he displayed on the soccer field to that job.
“Coaching is what got me here,” Blair says. “I’m a competitive guy. It’s in my blood. If an event didn’t go right, I took offense to it.”
The highlight came in 2011, when Wofford hosted a Republican Party presidential debate.
“We pulled off that debate, which really was an unbelievable undertaking for the college,” Blair says. “We got a lot of attention for that.”
Roberta Hurley, vice president and dean of students, calls Blair a “coach from head to toe.”
“John enjoys seeing students, faculty and staff succeed,” she says. “He is an institutional treasure who is often underappreciated. We will miss him.”
Blair says his immediate plans involve working on his house and his golf game. He says he’ll treasure his memories of his colleagues and students.
“Wofford College is a great place, and I’m going to miss the people,” he says. “I wouldn’t have stayed at a place for this long if I didn’t believe in everything we do.”