Remembering Rebecca “Becky” Blank, 1955-2023

February 24, 2023

ITHAKA lost a dear friend and colleague with the passing of Rebecca “Becky” Blank on February 17, 2023. A member of our board of trustees since 2014, Becky was an incredibly special and humble leader, and she will be missed terribly by all who are fortunate to have known her.

In a note to ITHAKA’s trustees, Steven Poskanzer, President of Carleton College and Chair of ITHAKA’s board reflected:

“This is a huge loss for the University of Wisconsin and Northwestern University communities, for the discipline of economics, for American higher education, and for all of us at ITHAKA who had the very real privilege of working alongside Becky and learning from her. I know that many of us marveled at the special blend of high intellectual aspirations, unflinching integrity, discerning judgment, and decided practicality that Becky brought to the ITHAKA Board. When these sterling qualities were combined with her grace, humor, whip-smart mind, and kindness, we all knew that we’d been blessed by her presence and her friendship.”

In her tenure as an ITHAKA trustee, Becky helped to guide our growth and impact, particularly in areas she cared deeply about including our research and programs to improve access to higher education for students from all backgrounds.

ITHAKA president Kevin Guthrie shared his memories of Becky on the University of Wisconsin— Madison tribute website:

“We were so fortunate when Becky joined our board in 2014. She served ITHAKA and our community with amazing intelligence, wit, and good humor for nearly 9 years. She was impactful, yet unassuming. Quiet, but memorable. And serious without taking herself seriously. You often found yourself doing what she counseled without knowing it. And that was just fine with her.

Even as she battled cancer, she never missed a meeting, buoying the spirits of both her colleagues on the board and our staff with smiles, great advice, and accessible wisdom. That was just Becky, and we will miss her deeply.”

Our thoughts go out to Becky’s husband Hanns and their daughter Emily and everyone whose life and work were touched by this remarkable person.