New student loan fund for CIAS emphasizes business education

Fund aims to help students with expenses while showing them how basic business knowledge can help their creative career

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Michele and Peter Blacksberg

A new loan fund is available to students in Rochester Institute of Technology’s College of Imaging Arts and Sciences who are willing to get down to business.

Students applying for loans from the Blacksberg Family Endowed Fund, created with a gift from Peter A. Blacksberg, a 1975 School of Photography alumnus, and his wife, Michele, must agree to take a course in business. The fund will make very low interest loans of up to $1,000 to help students cover school-related costs, such as equipment, materials or travel needed for their studies.

“We made the business course a requirement based on my own life experience,” said Peter Blacksberg. “As a photography student, I had no interest in business courses, thought I could figure out for myself how to budget, plan and negotiate my career.”

Some 15 years later, he took on a role that required him to attain an MBA, and “in the midst of that program, I was struck by the number of opportunities that I had lost or mishandled for lack of even the basic vocabulary and application of business concepts. I realized how empowering basic business tools could be—especially for the creative person.”

Blacksberg said he envisions this fund as “students helping other students succeed.” As loans are repaid, money becomes immediately available for use by other students, rather than deposited to the endowment.

“It’s about paying it forward,” said Blacksberg, who is now president of his 100-year old, family-managed business, Riverside Cemetery in Saddle Brook, N.J.

Blacksberg modeled the fund on a very successful medical student loan program that his father-in-law, Dr. Robert Larner, endowed at his alma mater, University of Vermont, which since 1985 has provided financial support to more than 1,000 UVM medical students.

Lorraine Justice, dean of the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences, said the new loan program will be invaluable.

“Our sincere thanks to Peter and Michele Blacksberg for endowing this fund, which I believe could make a significant difference for many of our students, allowing them to take advantage of opportunities they might not be able to otherwise afford,” Justice said. “We look forward to promoting the Blacksberg Fund, which is a wonderful model for engaging students and alumni.”

Students interested in applying for the loan can find more information at