On March 26, Skidmore College lost a true Renaissance man, David H. Porter, our president from 1987 until 1999. Porter embodied the very hallmarks of the liberal arts. Born in New York City 1935 to Hugh Porter, president of Union Theological Seminary's Music School, and Ethel K. Flentye, a pianist and teacher at Dalton School, he was "Best Boy" at the Collegiate School, excelling in the classroom and on the ballfield. At Swarthmore College he studied music and classics, graduating summa cum laude in 1958. He also studied at the Philadelphia Conservatory of Music with noted Austrian pianist and composer Edward Steuermann. Porter earned a Ph.D. in classics from Princeton University in 1962. He joined the faculty at Carleton College in Minnesota, spending the next quartercentury as a popular teacher and noted scholar, holding the W. H. Laird Chair in Liberal Arts. On his 1994-95 tour as Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar, his lectures covered Ives and Cage as well as Virginia Woolf, classics, Beethoven, and education. In 1986 he served as Carleton's interim president, and in 1987 he was recruited as Skidmore's fifth president. Over the next 12 years, Porter helped transform Skidmore into a nationally recognized institution, strengthening its curriculum, expanding the sciences, diversifying its faculty and student body, broadening financial aid, overseeing the largest fundraising campaign to that point. He laid the groundwork for the renowned Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery which opened in 2000. Music remained a core passion. He performed nationally and internationally, from Beethoven and Bach to the avant-garde works of Charles Ives and John Cage, and in the 1970s and '80s he studied harpsichord with Gustav Leonhardt. He was a regular in op-ed pages from The New York Times to The Boston Globe, opining on topics ranging from the cost of college to the relevance of Horace's odes, from student volunteerism to music education. In fact, a posthumous letter to the Times ran on Thursday. After retiring from the Skidmore presidency in 1999, Porter remained an active, publishing academic at Indiana University and Williams College before returning to Skidmore to teach classics as the Tisch Family Distinguished Professor. After retiring from the faculty in 2013, he continued to enlighten first-year students with his "Well- Tampered Clavier" lecture- concert on John Cage. Off campus, he was a member and chair of the board of Value Line and served on the boards of the Adirondack Trust Company, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Friends of the Saratoga Battlefield, Capital District Hospice, Yaddo, and the Willa Cather Foundation. He is survived by his wife, Helen Luebke Porter; his children Hugh Edwin Porter, Laudie Everett Porter, Helen Carol Porter, David Gray Porter, and Cathrin Ann Lawton; and seven grandchildren. He was predeceased by his first wife, Laudie Dimmette Porter. A standing-room-only memorial service was held at Skidmore's Arthur Zankel Music Center on April 8. For those wishing to make memorial donations, we suggest the David and Helen Porter Scholarship Fund at Skidmore College. The Skidmore community offers its deepest condolences to David's family and friends. Linda G. Toohey, Chair, Board of Trustees Philip A. Glotzbach, President
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MEMORIES & CONDOLENCES
When I think about David (and Helen!) Porter, I am reminded of Maya Angelou's words:
I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
David's optimism about the world, and his fearlessness, was contagious. As a student at Carleton College in the 1980s, I took his mythology course. He inspired me to bake a life-size version of Prometheus out of bread. We stuffed jelly on the inside and brought it to class to be devoured.
I got to know David a little more after he married Helen (my wonderful friend). Thinking about the two of them and their love/respect for each other makes me smile as I write.
David taught so many of us how to get the most out of our days. I am so grateful to have spent some quality, quality time with the Porters.
Julia Scatliff O'Grady
June 4, 2016
David was my piano instructor from 1962 to 1966 when I was a student at Carleton College. A fond memory is one time when he had those of us in a trio or quartet visit the theater department, find period costumes, and entertain guests (the college president, as I recall) in his home after dinner. Summer evenings I'd babysit Hugh, which usually meant arriving after Hugh had gone to sleep and then reading all the marvelous opportunities on David's and Laudie's bookshelves. He was an engaging professor when I took he introduction to classics course -- nerd that I was, I'd find repetitions (mistakes, I thought) in Ovid, and he'd explain that they were they were there for a purpose. What fun to learn from him. We'd exchange Christmas cards every year, and he always seemed to be aware of what I and my family were doing. He'll be missed greatly.