David Porter remembered
David H. Porter, fifth president of Skidmore College, died March 26.
Born in New York City in 1935, Porter 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.
He 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.
Porter’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. He and wife Helen co-authored a book on Lucy Skidmore Scribner.
Music was another great passion for Porter. 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 and last performed it for first-year Skidmore students this past September in the Arthur Zankel Music Center.
Following his term as president, Porter returned to the classroom, teaching at 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.
Porter's contributions to the Skidmore community were underscored just this past week when he was an honored guest at the annual David H. Porter Classical World Lecture, featuring acclaimed author Barry Strauss. As was his wont, Porter 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.
Online forms are available to send condolences or contributions.
A campus and family memorial was held April 8: details here.