Harold Richard Blatt, American Baptist Foreign Mission Society (ABFMS) alumnus, passed away at the age of 94, on June 2, 2022. Harold was born to Harold and Helen Blatt on March 13, 1928 in Reading, Pennsylvania.
Harold came under the influence of the Christian message early in life. The whole family became active members of the Plymouth Brethren. While he had accepted Christ at an early age it was not until he was 17 years old that he came to a new understanding of yielding all his life to Christ’s direction. Following high school in York, PA, Harold enlisted in the U.S. Army. While serving the U.S. Army in Japan he felt called to the ministry. During the commissioning service for new missionaries of the American Baptist Convention in Atlantic City in 1955 he felt the pull to missionary service.
Following his service with the U.S. Army in 1947, Harold entered Houghton College in New York and then went on to study at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary. During seminary, he also was an assistant pastor at the Philadelphia Second Baptist Church. Interestingly, during this time Harold took flying lessons. Following graduation, Harold worked as the Alumni Director at Eastern Seminary. He was ordained to the ministry by the Philadelphia Baptist Association on June 13, 1954.
On October 9, 1954 Harold married Jean Ruoss, a registered nurse. Harold continued to work on a fundraising campaign for Eastern Seminary. In 1956 Harold and Jean welcomed their first daughter.
Harold and Jean were appointed on November 12, 1956 by the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society (ABFMS) designated for service in the Philippines. In March of 1958 the Blatt family, which now included two very young daughters, sailed to the Philippines.
The Blatt family was stationed at Bacolod City, on Negros Island. Harold’s major emphasis was on stewardship training among the churches. Harold quickly went to work setting up the “Every Member Canvass” stewardship campaign. With the help of their friend, Moley Familiaran, the campaign was reduced and done in a local dialect. This met with great success in the first church. For smaller churches a 3-step plan was introduced also with success. By the 4th year the stewardship success became widely known and continues to be used today.
In 1962, the Blatt family sailed from the Philippines for their furlough in the United States. They settled on the campus of Eastern Baptist Seminary, where Harold completed his residence for his Th.M. At the end of the furlough Harold and Jean decided to stay in the U.S. due to health reasons.
Harold and Jean, while visiting the American Baptist headquarters in Valley Forge, PA, ran into Ben Browne, the first president of Judson College. Ben invited the family to come to the Chicago area where Harold would help start a new college. The Blatt family moved to Fort Wayne, IN where Harold represented Northern Seminary/Judson College. During this time their third daughter was born.
Two years later Judson College was moved to Elgin, IL where Harold became the Vice President of Development for the new school. Following Dr. Benjamin Browne’s retirement, Harold held the same job for Amos Barton, the second president of the college, for one year.
In 1968 Harold was called to return to Eastern College and Seminary where he successfully launched a 3-year campaign to meet the needs of the school. After the third year at Eastern College the president of Judson College called Harold to return to Judson College to work as Vice President of Development again. During the next 13 years Harold ran many successful campaigns and the college grew in student numbers and facilities. Through those years, Harold also worked on the Elgin Rotary campaigns.
During those last years at Judson College Harold had two opportunities to return to the Philippines. One visit was to join his oldest daughter, and a group of young adults to attend the Baptist Youth World Conference in Manila in 1978. The other, in 1982, was for a sabbatical with Jean and youngest daughter. The purpose was to train the director of development of the university. Upon arrival, Harold was asked to train all the educational leaders of the eight Christian schools and colleges in the Philippines. It was a busy three months.
Once again, Eastern Seminary and College encouraged Harold to return and work for them. He did for two years. Harold’s next job was at Alvernia College, so he and Jean moved to Wyomissing, PA. Harold went to work inviting Catholic churches to support Alvernia which the churches had not considered doing before.
In 1989, Eastern Seminary asked for Harold to help at a critical time. The seminary and college were becoming separate entities and new funds would be needed to keep then afloat separately.
At the age of 65, Harold retired from his full-time career of fundraising, however he did lend a helping to the Baptist Children’s services for a few years. A couple of years into retirement Harold and Jean made a visit to Haiti where middle daughter and husband were missionaries. Eventually Harold and Jean moved to The Villages in Florida where they resided for 22 years. They enjoyed biking, golfing and visits from the family.
Harold is survived by his wife Jean, daughters Sue, Sandy and Stephanie, 6 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren. They will all miss his great smile and enthusiasm and devotion to his LORD.
The family will celebrate Harold’s life privately. At the time of this writing, there is no public memorial service planned.