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Arts on view
Kuroda named first Porter Professor
Historian Tadahisa Kuroda is the very first incumbent of the David H. Porter Chair at Skidmore College. The endowed chair honors the broad talents and deep dedication of Skidmore’s faculty and of its president emeritus, David Porter.
|Tad Kuroda says he shares the honor of his appointment to the Porter Chair with his faculty colleagues.
A Yale alumnus with a Columbia Ph.D., Kuroda joined Skidmore’s faculty in 1969, and in 1986 he was part of the search committee that brought in musician and classicist David Porter as the college’s fifth president. In his twelve-year tenure, “David elevated the discussion of scholarship, teaching, and intellectual life,” says Kuroda, “which inspired a lot of faculty members. I was encouraged by his example to a higher level of scholarly work, including finishing my book.” And now, he adds, “to have my name associated with his” as the first Porter Professor is “an extradordinary honor and responsibility.”
Among the responsibilities, he feels, is “to help define the chair and promote its spirit.” Although a perk of the appointment is the option of a reduced teaching load, Kuroda says, “I find myself taking on a little more"—as befits the energies of the chair’s namesake. A specialist in early American history, Kuroda also teaches in the Liberal Studies 1 course and in the environmental studies program, because, he notes, “interdisciplinary programs often need more faculty participants, and I want to contribute.”
In fact, Kuroda is passionate about the very concept of faculty. “This endowed chair is really an honor to the earlier professors who established the standards of excellence for the faculty,” he says, and promptly names a dozen legendary Skidmore professors from the 1950s through 1980s. Yet, he says, “for all their distinguished work, in those days they never had the chance to be honored with a chair. In appointing me to the Porter Chair, the college honors them.”
Kuroda says he’ll continue to be active in campus service and governance too; among his many leadership roles, he served as associate dean of the faculty from 1993 to 1998.
But closest to his heart is classroom teaching, especially innovative methods, like the use of case studies. Kuroda has been collaborating with colleagues in the American Historical Association who agree that case studies—which engage students in historic debates or predicaments, drawing them in as participants—are powerful antidotes to “the dry recitation of dates and names that can make history seem boring.” Kuroda hopes to help compile a publication or database of interesting, well-written case studies for the use of teachers and professors nationwide.
In introducing Kuroda when he gave the Moseley Faculty Research Lecture in 1991, Phyllis Roth, then dean of the faculty, nicely summed up his dedication and integrity, saying he had justly earned a “reputation for excellence as a teacher-scholar and for great wisdom as a colleague.”
Clearly Kuroda seems an easy choice for the Porter Chair; yet the decision wasn’t so simple, according to Jamienne S. Studley, Skidmore’s president. As she told a faculty meeting, “The selection was made challenging by the powerful contributions of so many people to the life of the college and to their disciplines… and provided yet another occasion to reflect on the quality, dedication, and commitment of Skidmore’s faculty.”
The Porter Chair is the result of gifts from longtime trustee Susan Kettering Williamson ’59 and Skid-more parent Harry Quadracci.
“I wanted to do something for David Porter, and because he so loves teaching, I wanted to give a faculty chair,” says Williamson. A stalwart on the board of trustees since 1973, she is known for her modest, unassuming manner and quiet wisdom. She has provided significant support over the years, especially for student scholarships. In 1989 Williamson received the Kemball-Cook Award from her fellow trustees, and in 1998 she was given a Skidmore honorary degree. The Surrey Williamson Inn is named in her honor.
Harry Quadracci and son Joel ’91, the donors of the Quadracci chair in Social Responsibility, wanted Skid-more also to have a professorship explicitly honoring David Porter. Harry, president of the Quad/Graphics printing firm, was a Skidmore trustee when Porter was newly on board as college president—"and I was a freshman then myself," recalls Joel, now Quad vice president. "We had a first-hard view, and we were both impressed with the way David revitalized Skidmore's educational culture. He adds, "We wanted to honor him because of the impact he made on me as a student."
As a delighted David Porter explained when the gift was arranged, an endowed chair provides a permanent resource that's independent of tuition income and dedicated to supporting the college's most important asset: its faculty, who can and do change students' lives. For Porter Professor Tad Kuroda, it's that power, and privilege, that inspires his teaching and research and service every single day. —SR