Creed C. Black, 1925-2011

Today, the legacy of Creed Black was published on the website of the Knight Foundation:

Creed Black, editor and newspaper publisher and the former president of Knight Foundation, has passed away. He was a courageous journalist who will be remembered at Knight Foundation as a leader, in the field of intercollegiate athletics as a visionary and in our hearts as a great friend.

A graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Creed was a reporter or editor in Paducah (Ky.), the U. S. Army’s Stars & Stripes, Nashville, Savannah, Wilmington, (Del.), Chicago and Philadelphia. His career was long and distinguished but perhaps never so remarkable as when he was editor and publisher of the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader, where he set standards for courage and investigative journalism. He was the embodiment of the journalistic ideal of a full, accurate, contextual search for truth.

When he left Lexington, he assumed the presidency of Knight Foundation. Over his ten years of leadership, he helped strengthen communities and journalism by professionalizing and creating a national presence for our foundation.

His tenure began in 1988, just as Knight was entering a new phase made possible by an increase in assets after the death of our founder Jack Knight. When Creed arrived in Akron to begin his new job, we had just five employees, with most of the grant making decisions made by local newspaper publishers. Under his leadership, the foundation’s assets more than doubled to $1.2 billion, and Creed hired the staff and created the infrastructure needed to bring transformational change to journalism and communities.

Creed led the foundation’s move to Miami, where the Knight brothers’ headquarters also was located. In addition to responding to opportunities to fund programs in communities, he introduced program initiatives at the foundation and launched national programs in education and the arts.

Perhaps his greatest passion and legacy lies in the successful endeavor he launched more than 20 years ago to help reform the NCAA through the recommendations of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics. As late as last week, his wife Elsa was still briefing Creed on new developments, as the NCAA adopted a rule change long championed by the Knight Commission. The NCAA Division I board voted to require teams to be on track to graduate at least 50% of their players to be eligible for postseason championships. Founding co-chair of the Knight Commission and former head of the University of North Carolina system, Bill Friday, called this a “monumental achievement” and a milestone in the history of scholar athletes. The ruling further solidified the role of college presidents as the owners of responsibility and authority to ensure the primacy of scholarship in collegiate athletics.

The Knight Commission’s work embodies Creed’s value-driven life, and his high expectations, of himself and others. It is fitting that he was engaged with the commission’s work until his final days. What he began will continue to impact people’s lives and values in the future.

All of us at Knight Foundation feel the loss and extend our sympathy to Elsa and all of Creed’s children. Creed’s life, leadership and passions intertwined with Knight Foundation’s – and we are all the better for it.

— Alberto Ibargüen

A Memorial Service will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, August 20th at the Kendall United Methodist Church, 7600 SW 104th Street, Miami. Interment will occur later, in Paducah, Kentucky, Creed’s home town.