It is with profound sadness that Carleton College shares news of former President and Professor David Porter’s death on Friday, March 25 in Saratoga Springs, New York. He was 80 years old.
Porter taught classics and music at Carleton from 1962-1987 and served as Carleton’s eighth President from 1986-1987. He went on to serve as president of Skidmore College from 1987-1999, then taught at Williams College (1999-2008) and Indiana University (2008) before returning to Skidmore as the Tisch Family Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts. He gave recitals and lecture-recitals throughout the United States, in Great Britain, and on radio and TV, including a number of performances of the Concord Sonata. Porter is the author of books on Horace and on Greek tragedy and of three monographs on Virginia Woolf and Bloomsbury.
Carleton President John Nason made what at the time was a special appointment for David jointly in Classical Languages and Music. Professor Jackson Bryce noted in introducing Porter at Carleton’s Commencement in 2011 “It was a bold and immensely successful move, as David became a legendary teacher and performer at Carleton, and a symbol of the multiple engagement ideally expected of all of us who profess the liberal arts.”
“David was a profoundly gifted teacher with a rare ability to inspire students in memorable ways,” said current Carleton President Steve Poskanzer. “He was a singularly talented musician. And his deep wisdom, skilled leadership, and devotion to community allowed him to steward Carleton through a key period of transition and then to take Skidmore to new heights. I will miss his friendship, his counsel—and, yes, his unsurpassed gift for brilliant yet awful puns!”
David and his late wife, Laudie, spent 24 years at Carleton, and often played recitals together; they raised their four children in Northfield. Porter is survived by his second wife, Helen, who was for some 10 years secretary to the president here at Carleton. His granddaughter, Laudie, is a member of the Carleton Class of 2018.
Porter received an Honorary Degree from Carleton in 2011. On that occasion he commented: “I’m honored to receive my degree in your company, though I’m aware you’ve done it in four years, while it’s taken me forty-nine!”
Carleton, Skidmore, and the larger higher education community mourns the loss of a true scholar and artist.
For those wishing to make memorial donations, the family suggests Carleton College’s Laudie Porter Memorial Fund, or Skidmore College’s David and Helen Porter Scholarship Fund, or another charity.