Joseph E. Black played a central role in the Rockefeller Foundation's (RF) University Development Program (UDP) in the 1960s and 1970s, which sought to support and strengthen university education in developing countries. He served as the RF’s Director for Humanities and Social Sciences from 1965 to 1978.
Black was born on September 14, 1921, in Blanding, Utah. He was a World War II veteran, serving in the United States Air Force from 1943 to 1946. After the war, Black earned his B.S. from Utah State University (1946), and his M.A. (1948) and Ph.D. (1950) in Political Science from Northwestern University.
Black began his career in 1950 as an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. In 1958, he became Professor and Chair of the Political Science Department. He served in these roles until 1963, when he joined the Rockefeller Foundation. He would remain at the RF until his retirement in 1984.
The RF hired Black to serve as a field staff member responsible for assisting in the development of an International Relations curriculum at the Makerere University College in Kampala, Uganda, and teaching at both Makerere and University College of Dar es Salaam. From 1963 to 1965, he served as the representative of the RF's program in Nigeria and Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Professor of Political Science at the University of Ibadan. Despite being in this role for only a short time, his work had a profound influence. RF officer Kenneth W. Thompson recalled that the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Kenneth Dike, once remarked that “no American was more vital to the success of all technical assistance in Nigeria than Joseph Black.”
Black returned to New York in 1965 to serve as the Director of the RF's Humanities and Social Sciences Division, and held this position until 1978. He remained closely involved in the supervision of the RF’s University of Ibadan program and the UDP’s successor program, the Education for Development Program (EDP).
In 1978, Black again sought an overseas assignment. He resigned his position as Director to serve as the RF's representative in Indonesia and Visiting Professor of Social Science at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. In a warm send-off addressed to RF staff, RF President John H. Knowles described Black as having “had a singularly successful and distinguished career” with the Rockefeller Foundation.
Black served in this role until his retirement in December 1984, following a final Foundation EFD grant to Indonesia in 1983. He retired in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he lived until his death on May 6, 2007. His officer's diaries can be accessed at the Rockefeller Archive Center.