The life and careers of Rev. Robert Blythe, ’71, have circled out from Richmond and returned. While majoring in mathematics and education at Eastern, obvious leadership skills earned his election as class president. Despite enjoying teaching mathematics in Gary, Ind., a desire for new skills and experience brought him back to Eastern to study French and teach at Richmond City Schools. What next? Evolving computer languages drew Blythe to a career with IBM General Systems in Akron, Ohio. “There are so many things that I find attractive and interesting,” he confesses.
What happened in Akron, though, was deeper than “attraction.” Serving in the music department of the New Hope Baptist Church of Akron, he received a call to the ministry. More study followed: a master of divinity from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and doctor of ministry from Covington Theological Schools.
Back in Richmond, now in his third decade as pastor of First Baptist Church, Blythe’s tireless community services include Boys and Girls Clubs, drug abuse prevention, work in parks and recreation, the American Red Cross, and multiple service clubs. His current tenure on the Richmond City Commission began in 2003 and facilitated new avenues of town-gown cooperation. From 2005-2008 he was mayor pro-tem and holds that post today. Bank One president Jeff Fultz writes, “Dr. Blythe redefines ‘distinguished’ as someone who combines the obvious professional accolades with a commitment to ‘serving others’.”
An inspiring pastor and devoted public servant, Blythe confesses that he will always “bleed maroon.” Mathematics never lost its fascination. Between 1993 and his retirement in 2011, he taught mathematics to hundreds of grateful students in Eastern’s mathematics department: “Great sense of humor combined with a gift for teaching math. . . BEST math teacher out there! . . . .He wants everyone to succeed. . . .Dr. Blythe goes beyond helping, he reaches out to students.”
Reaching out in all of his careers has been the defining characteristic of the Rev. Dr. Robert Blythe.