Professor Blake was born at Muswellbrook in regional New South Wales. He graduated from The University of Sydney with the University Medal in Agriculture and completed a doctorate from The University of London. Following a Rockefeller Travelling Fellowship to the United States of America, he returned to The University of Sydney as a lecturer in plant pathology. As a member of the Faculty of Agriculture he was promoted to senior lecturer and served as the Wilson Fellow and Senior Tutor at St Andrew's College.
In 1971, Professor Blake was appointed as the Foundation Principal of the new Riverina College of Advanced Education. Over the next twenty years he used a unique combination of imagination, pragmatism and energy to build this fledgling institution into one of the most diverse and dynamic colleges of advanced education in Australia.
He quickly established the College as one of the leading providers of distance education courses in Australia. He introduced courses in business, liberal studies, science and, following amalgamation with the Wagga Agriculture College, in agriculture that supplemented the teacher education courses that had been offered through the Wagga Wagga Teachers' College out of which, Riverina College had been established.
Very soon after his appointment in 1971, Professor Blake led the development of a presence in the then government-designated growth-centre of Albury/Wodonga. In 1972, the Albury Study Centre was officially opened by the Hon. David Fairbairn, Minister of Defence. Four years later, the Premier, Neville Wran, opened the College of Advanced Education building in Townsend Street. In 1981, Professor Blake oversaw the amalgamation of Riverina College with the Goulburn College of Advanced Education to establish the Riverina-Murray Institute of Higher Education.
During this period he contributed significantly to the overall development of the advanced education sector. In recognition of his contribution he was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1988.
Professor Blake played a definitive role in the establishment of the new Charles Sturt University to which he was later appointed Foundation Vice-Chancellor and Professor of the University. During his term as Vice-Chancellor he has made a significant contribution to higher education in Australia and internationally.
He contributions were recognised in many ways. He was: an Elected Fellow of the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science; awarded the Farrer Memorial Medal for distinguished contributions to agricultural science; granted the freedom of the City of Wagga Wagga and made an Honorary Citizen of the City of Bathurst; awarded an honorary Doctor of Educational Administration by The University of Sydney; and at Charles Sturt University he has had conferred on him an honorary Doctor of the University award and the title Emeritus Professor.
Under Professor Blake's leadership, Charles Sturt University has become the pre-eminent regional university in Australia. It has more than doubled in size. The University is now the 15th largest university in terms of student numbers in Australia; the biggest provider of distance education; the third largest provider of off-shore courses; and has the third largest number of full fee-paying students in Australia. The University has sought to improve the life of regional communities and nowhere was this more apparent than in Albury-Wodonga and with the development of the new campus at Thurgoona. It expanded into international education through the innovative and effective strategy of course delivery through partnerships with offshore educational providers. It developed new professional areas such as policing and photography, strengthened its commitment to the regions it served through courses such as accounting, information technology and early childhood education, and moved into disciplines that met the emerging needs of regional Australia such as physiotherapy, parks recreation and heritage and ecotourism. The University was so successful and such an integral part of the higher education scene that it was proclaimed Australia's University of the Year in 1997.
Above all else, Professor Blake has had a commitment to students and particularly to the provision of distance education to meet the needs of rurally isolated students, those in the workplace and those offshore. Of today's student Professor Blake recently commented: "I think the calibre is quite remarkable. The modern student has the skills, attitudes and values that my generation never had. They are articulate, informed, enthusiastic and they have a maturity about them."