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Skidmore College

President Glotzbach informs campus of David H. Porter's passing

March 26, 2016

Dear Members of the Skidmore Community,

David H. Porter
David H. Porter

I write today to share the very sad news that David H. Porter, fifth president of Skidmore College, has died. It is especially painful, in this season of renewal, for the Skidmore community to once more confront the loss of a beloved community member and friend. Our thoughts go immediately to David’s wife, Helen, their children, and their grandchildren, as they cope with this loss.

Born in New York City in 1935, David received a bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College in 1958 and a doctorate in Classics from Princeton University in 1962. He then traveled to Carleton College where, for the next quarter of a century, he enjoyed a remarkably productive career as a teacher, scholar, and administrator.

David assumed the Skidmore presidency in June 1987. During his twelve-year tenure as president, he greatly enhanced the intellectual life of the campus, helped conceive and plan the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, successfully led the Journey Campaign, which raised nearly $86.5 million (then the largest campaign total in the College’s history), and worked to diversify the College’s student body, faculty, and staff.

David’s intellectual interests and achievements were broad and eclectic. He was a regular contributor of opinion pieces to The New York Times and The Boston Globe. He wrote letters to the editor of The New Yorker. And in addition to penning books on Horace and Greek tragedy as part of his core scholarly activity, he also produced monographs on Willa Cather, Virginia Woolf, the Hogarth Press, and the Austrian pianist and composer, Edward Steuermann. Finally, he and his wife Helen co-authored a book on Lucy Skidmore Scribner.

Music was another great passion for David. He studied piano with Steuermann and harpsichord with the celebrated Gustav Leonhardt, and he regularly performed both on- and off-campus. His presentation "The Well-Tampered Clavier: Play, Musical and Otherwise," was a staple for incoming students both during his presidency and long after. He presented this performance at a national conference of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and last performed it for first-year Skidmore students this past September in the Arthur Zankel Music Center.

Following his term as president, David returned to the classroom, teaching at his alma mater, Princeton University, as well as Williams College, Indiana University, and Skidmore, where he served as the first Tisch Family Distinguished Professor. He retired from the classroom in 2013, after more than half a century of teaching, but remained an active scholar. His edition of Lucy Gayheart for the Willa Cather Scholarly Edition was published this past August.

David’s continuing contributions to our community were underscored just this past week when he was an honored guest at Skidmore’s annual David H. Porter Classical World Lecture, featuring acclaimed author Barry Strauss, who paid tribute to David’s classics scholarship at the start of his lecture. As was his wont, David spent much of the dinner following that lecture speaking with students, forming a connection with a new generation of scholars and displaying, as always, his undiminished talent for and love of puns and wordplay.

Details about a service will be announced when finalized. For those who may need support, Counseling Services may be reached at 518-580-5555. As a reminder, all employees may utilize the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which may be reached at 518-793-9768. Wilson Chapel is available for those seeking space for reflection.

I ask you to join Marie and me in keeping David’s family in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.


Philip A. Glotzbach

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