David Porter

28 March 2016
David Porter
David Porter

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.

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  • 2016-03-30 12:08:21
    Denise Halbmaier Stahura

    He was a gentle man and a gentleman.  My thoughts are with you, Helen.

  • 2016-03-30 12:09:38
    Janet Grossman

    I didn't know David well, but when I took flute lessons from Laudie back in 1974-76 or 77, he would sometimes accompany me on the harpsichord in their living room. They were both incredibly special people to me in my time at Carleton. David was always the epitome to me of a "Renaissance Man," and I don't think I've ever applied that label to anyone else.

  • 2016-03-30 12:10:06
    Edward Kerson

    i first encountered David Porter about 50 years ago (as a freshman, if memory serves), in his wonderful course on Greek Literature in Translation.  The course was easily the best and most inspiring introduction one could have had to the liberal arts.  I went on to take three more courses from Nr. Porter - all brilliantly taught (although not so brilliantly learneD).  I went on to graduate school in history and law school at Yale, where I was was privileged to have great professors and mentors.  However, Mr. Porter set for me the standard by which to measure a great professor.  HaMakom Yinachem

  • 2016-03-30 12:18:25
    Susan Turner Jones

    David Porter enlarged my mind and world. He both encouraged my study of Greek mythology and literature and language as well as gave me the answer and permission I needed at the time to choose to become an English major instead of a classics major. David also welcomed me into his home and family, truly making my Carleton world home. I will forever value what I learned from him and treasure the remembrance of his genuine nature as a man and educator. class of '77

  • 2016-03-30 12:23:49
    Joel Super

    Truly, a great loss. Professor Porter gave the best Convocation lecture I ever attended, sitting at the piano and talking about/illustrating the music of Erik Satie. I often use the experience to illustrate what helps set Carleton apart--that such a faculty member existed and that people attended the lecture.

  • 2016-03-30 12:41:59
    Morris Schreibman '78

    Very sad news tonight on the death of David Porter. His Greek Mythology class can only be described as perception-changing. I remember listening to some of his lectures in spellbound awe. That one class opened up an entire new way of thinking about the world and history and humanity. It was a critical part of my Carleton experience. 

  • 2016-03-30 12:42:40
    Randall Ohman

    As profound and accomplished as he was, he managed to offer a neophyte, aspiring pianist the opportunity to learn a specific melody (Vince Guaraldi's "Linus and Lucy") within the scope of his piano course. And he did so with the patience and respect you might expect of an elementary school or Sunday school teacher. Buffeted at the time by tough courses, I didn't really need another...and it could have been as it was all new to me. Professor Porter made it a learning joy.

  • 2016-03-30 12:44:55
    Kristin Larson

    As a flute student of Laudie Porter's (1977-81), I was lucky to be able to play with David Porter providing accompaniment on his harpsichord.  He was so generous with his time and talents, and I have such fond memories of being at the Porter house (which was frequent when I lived across the street in Faculty Club). 

  • 2016-03-30 12:52:54
    Susan Robiner

    I will never forget taking Greek Mythology from Prof. Porter. He engaged our intellect joyfully and completely. Many of the remembrances here capture his warmth and talent beautifully. I echo those sentiments. Those who learned from him were truly blessed.

  • 2016-03-30 12:53:40
    Mark Mellstrom '78

    I was young and nervous when I came back to Northfield to start my medical career in 1985. I was honored and pleased when David and Laudie decided to have me for their doctor and their friend. They loved music, loved Carleton, and loved each other. David had a powerful mind and a gentle kind of strength and courage that will always be an inspiration.

  • 2016-03-30 13:15:36
    Ruth Pittman Kuo 1974

    Everyone took Greek mythology from Dr. Porter.  He was by far the most popular prof on campus when I was there.  A warm memory of Carleton.

  • 2016-03-30 13:17:51
    Bob Fliegel, '61

    My fondest memory of David was of his playing harpsichord at our April 2, 1983 wedding reception in Great Hall, along with Laudie on the flute and daughter Helen playing violin, immediately following my marriage to my classmate Nena Thames Whittemore by chaplain David Maitland in Skinner Memorial Chapel.  I am so glad that our photographer captured this photo of them and that we included it in our wedding album.



  • 2016-03-30 13:22:30
    Virginia A Smith, class of 1975

    David Porter was my best and most inspiring professor at Carleton.  I took his course in Greek Mythology as a first-term freshman, and was hooked.  I took Greek I with him, then moved on to Greek II, and then Herodotus, the Iliad, and others, several with David.  his brilliance almost turned me into a Classics major.

    I remember his puns, some good, some groan-worthy;  his huge smile and frequent laughter;  his boyish wonder of the world of the intellect.  I remember his joy at the birth of his child David (Davy), because he was a husband and father foremost, and then a teacher and musician--magnificent in all roles.

    After I moved to New York in the early 80s, I ran into him in the lobby of my building, 215 West 98th Street, on Broadway, and I remember that he had told me that he had lived there at one time, presumably when he was at Collegiate as a boy.  

    I am very glad to hear that he has a granddaughter named Laudie at Carleton;  that seems only right.  He and Laudie gave so much to Carleton, and I grieve his passing.  He was a marvelous person.  Bless you, David. We hold you in our hearts.

  • 2016-03-30 13:24:01
    Kirk Ormand, '85

    As everyone here, I was deeply saddened to hear this news. David was already a legend when I got to Carleton, and I was lucky to have him introduce me to ancient Greek; later I took a course on Plato and the pre-Socratics.  I didn't much agree with Plato, and I don't think I'll ever forget the amused patience (or patient amusement) with which David talked through the Protagoras with me. As one of my classmates observed, he had a way of expecting that we would do so much more than we were capable of, and then appearing to be so pleased with what little we managed to actually do -- it was simultaneously terrifying and encouraging, which led to a sense of exhilaration that was present in every class.  

    David was one of the very few for whom the word "genius" seems not an overstatement. Professor Porter, you left us all too soon.  My sincere condolences to Helen and to David's children.

  • 2016-03-30 13:25:38
    Marc Carter

    I am deeply sadden to hear about Mr. Porter's passing.  He was a great scholar and a terrific guy who shared his tremendous enthusiasm with all his students. How many teachers get standing ovations in Olin Hall after a lecture?  

    I recently saw a Roz Chast cartoon in the New Yorker entitled “Furies 2.0” and the first thing I thought was "Boy, Mr. Porter would love this."


  • 2016-03-30 13:32:43
    Thomas Rossing

    I remember David and Laudie from a Carleton/St.Olaf chamber music group which used to enjoy making music together.

  • 2016-03-30 13:34:45
    Ostara Hollyoak (formerly: Colleen Raske)

    David Porter was a marvelous teacher and a lovely person. As it happens, I was just thinking of him yesterday (quite out of the blu-- and learned of his death today). I think this speaks to how often, and well, he'll be remembered by his students. 


  • 2016-03-30 13:45:23
    Bill Heinemann

    David Porter was my freshman advisor. I also tried unsuccessfully to learn greek from him. What amazed me even more than his vast knowledge and awful puns was that he was always smiling. He truly loved what he did and he loved not only the material he taught, but he loved students as well. I think between David and Ian Barbour they had most of human knowledge covered.

  • 2016-03-30 14:07:17
    Kathie Booth Stevens '65

    I was greatly affected by David Porter. His warm and thoughtful presence, his ability to make even the most diffident student (like me) feel that he was paying attention and interested, and his enthusiasm for learning made a real mark on me.  I often remember the advice he once gave:  'When you feel that you don't have enough time to do it all, slow down!'.  I am saddened by his death.

  • 2016-03-30 14:14:18
    David Ocker '73

    For one quarter I took piano lessons from David Porter; he distinguished himself as an instructor of the greatest patience.  As a far more proficient clarinetist, a chamber music performance with David and Laudie was important in helping me set my career goals.   He exposed me to works of music, both modern and baroque - Scarlatti, Ives, Satie, Cage, which have become touchstones in my life as a musician.  Although my contact with him was not extensive, he managed to earn a place in an all-too-small pantheon of my teachers who who were positive, memorable and inspiring.  What's more, he confounded my expectations by showing that a man of such talents could become a successful college president.  I am sad to learn of his passing.

  • 2016-03-30 14:23:55
    Don Stiles '73

    I will remember Professor Porter as a kind and gentle soul;  Knowledgeable in the classics and talented in his music,  ... a very special blend.

  • 2016-03-30 15:00:29
    Nancy Foran '71

    Anyone who took Greek Mythology from Prof. Porter was indeed privileged. All these years later, I still have the books from that course.  He was an engaging and inspiring teacher.  Here's to a life well-lived!



  • 2016-03-30 15:01:48
    David Moberg '65

    I remember Professor Porter for his rare combination of admirable qualities--a keen intellect, broad knowledge, a sparkling personality, and empathy for his students. His introductory classics course was exciting and illuminating, and I still appreciate his making me aware of the music of Charles Ives, and consequently opening many other esthetic doors.  He embodied--but not alone among Carleton faculty, I should add--the ideals of a liberal education in his life and work, and I only regret not having known him better.  

  • 2016-03-30 15:03:27
    Rush Holt '70

    David Porter once posed the wise exercise: Think of your favorite professor. Next, imagine that all the faculty at Carleton were just like that person, and consider how unfortunate that would be.

    Now hearing of his death, I think maybe if they were all like David Porter that would not be unfortunate. 

  • 2016-03-30 15:11:21
    Sarah Broad Fowler '64

    I can do no more than second the wonderful comments made so far. His Greek Mythology course was engaging and unforgettable. And a bit racy for one raised on laundered Greek Mythology as a child. May his soul rest in peace.

  • 2016-03-30 15:16:55
    Keith Watson '76

    Carleton had few large lecture classes, but his Greek Mythology class was one of them, and his lectures had me on the edge of my seat. He was everything you could ever hope for in a professor. I'm glad he lived a long, rich life. 

  • 2016-03-30 15:41:37
    Margaret Simms, 1967

    I came to Carleton as math-physics type and thought that Greek mythology would be a nice contrast to all the scientific stuff I was picking up in other courses.  The class was far more than I ever expected and David Porter's enthusiasm for the subject was contagious.  I ended up majoring in econ and I suspect I remember a lot more from the Greek mythology class than I do from some of my science courses!  I was delighted to find my old classics professor was the President when I came back for my 20th reunion.  The elevation had not changed him a bit--which was a good thing.

  • 2016-03-30 16:00:39
    Jon Blue '70

     David Porter was my first professor (in Greek Literature in Translation and Mythology) at Carleton in 1966 and one of the best. I vividly remember visiting his home and hearing him play the harpsichord accompanied by Laudie playing the flute. Although I went on to major in history and never took another course from him, he inspired me to learn ancient Greek a little later in life. I still read the Iliad and think of him. He was extraordinarily learned, the picture of an academic, and a kind and gentle soul. He unquestionably made the world a better place.

  • 2016-03-30 16:06:36
    Julie Heilig Febres

    Dr. Porter was a very engaging Greek professor who made his students love the sound of the language and enjoy the great myths and history as well as studying great characters.  A wonderful memory from Carleton.  He was also a great family man, sharing his wonderful children with his talented wife Laudie, who had great musical talent as well.  I have never forgotten his harpsichord concerts and Laudie's concerts as well.  I babysat the 1st 2 children and felt sorry to leave CC when my father passed away suddenly and I was forced to finish my last year at the U of M.


  • 2016-03-30 16:16:57
    Susan Worland 72

    Thank you to Meredith Hoppin for posting this sad news yesterday.  At the same time I'm sad, I'm also heartened by all the tributes posted here, especially those from other musicians, David Ocker in particular.  Mr. Porter was certainly one of my favorite teachers at Carleton, I took his mythology class, of course, and he was my piano teacher as well.  One day he had a class in which we were going to listen to and talk about piano literature through the ages.  At the time I was deeply enamored of Brahms' first piano concerto.  I was surprised that Mr. Porter wasn't also in love with it!  And then I realized how broad the music world really is, he was very interested in early music and even more interested in contemporary music, which I was just beginning to get cozy with.

  • 2016-03-30 16:20:14
    Liz Reading '85

    I only took one course from David Porter -- Mythology -- but like everyone else, I was transfixed.  Even though it was a large and popluar class, Prof. Porter went out of his way to interact with many individually.  He was so clearly a very caring man.  I also have fond memories of his playing the harpsicord!  My condolences to his family.  Prof. Porter will be missed.   

  • 2016-03-30 16:31:35
    Mimi Garbisch Carlson, 1966

    I'm not the least bit surprised by all the accolades and good memories.  In the mid 1960's most CC profs included the assignment of a paper, but David Porter asked for a project in his very popular mythology class.  I composed a piece for solo flute narrated with Ovid's tale of Pan which I then had to play in class!   It was on the program for my senior recital and then again for a reunion recital when he came back as a guest of our class.  I'll play it again in June for our 50th reunion to honor him.  I also took flute lessons from Laudie when the Minneapolis Symphony flutist who taught at CC went on tour.  My lessons with Laudie were more rewarding.  Both are greatly missed but their inspiration for us all lives on.    

  • 2016-03-30 16:36:42
    Rebecca Cooney '75

    I celebrate his life.  He was one of those rare (perhaps singular) teachers whose interests knew no boundaries, from classics to music to, I see now, Virginia Woolf and Bloomsbury.  He was generous.  When he learned that I was taking cello lessons (I was a bare beginner), he offered to accompany me in Scarlatti sonatas that I was practicing, but I was too shy and mortified -- I couldn't keep time well -- to take him up on it, and to this day, I am sorry for that.  But oh, the offer!  He was demanding (I was a Greek student), and one day in a Sophocles class (we were studying Antigone) he spoke about sponges and plants: both can be watered but only one grows.  This terrified me.  So, our class produced a play (a mini-act, really, with music and dance composed by other Carls) in Greek of a scene out of the play in Nourse. 

    I learned so much from him, but most of all, about living.  I am honored to have found him in my life. I do not forget his shining eyes.  So like Athena. 

  • 2016-03-30 17:04:53
    John Peterson, 1974

    I had the good fortune to study Greek language and literature with David.

    He was a kind man as well as a wonderful teacher. My sympathies to the family.

  • 2016-03-30 17:31:34
    Christopher Rushlau

    He was evidently happy, he made his education the organ of that happiness, and he wasn't afraid to be spontaneous in public.  Unfortunately, he was not kicked upstairs before he contaminated my Carleton experience.  Speaking of classics, his case does support the ancient claim that "the noble seek power".

  • 2016-03-30 17:34:28
    Peggy Bradley Timmerman '80

    In the fall of 1979 I took Professor Porter's Introduction to Mythology class.  When he said that the Odyssey should really be read aloud, the cute guy next to me aksed if I wanted to do that--and we did, chapter by chapter.  Who can resist the rosy finger tips of dawn and the wine dark sea?  (We have been married for 35 years this June.)  I took the music section of the class and am sure I was the only non-musician in the group, but he welcomed my enthusiasm despite my ignorance, and encouraged my efforts to create other art forms that were influenced by mythology.  I always felt this was the very best class I had at Carleton.

  • 2016-03-30 17:43:45
    Andrew Korsak, 1969

    If I recall correctly, I took Professor Porter's Greek Literature in Translation course during the spring of my freshman year.  I appreciated the exposure to the Greek classics, but I appreciated even more Professor Porter's engaging lectures and his willingness to meet with me after class when I needed clarification of certain points I did not readily understand. 


    I extend my deepest sympathies to his widow Helen and the rest of his family.  May they all be comforted that he proved to be strong for 80 years and benefitted so many at Carleton and elsewhere by his kindess, talent, and wisdom.




  • 2016-03-30 19:35:28
    Grace Huenemann '66

    I'm shocked and deeply saddened by the news of David Porter's death.  Throughout my four years of piano lessons, and in his Greek mythology class, he was a caring mentor and an inspiring role model.  His example is alive for me every day as I relate to my piano students, who, like me at Carleton, never have enough time to practice.  I treasure the memory of his wry humor, his joy in teaching and learning, his lightning quick mind, and the way he embraced life.  He was ready for new challenges, whether learning the Ives Concord Sonata, facing Laudie's illness and death, forming a new marriage and blended family, or excelling in multiple careers.  I smile as I recall the time we gave him a "candle shower" for his birthday and regretted that we couldn't find any candles that would burn at both ends.  My sincere condolences to Helen and his children and extended family.  

  • 2016-03-30 19:38:02
    Lona Sepessy 1978

     I loved David Porter's Greek Mythology class, enjoyed sharing poems and other writings rooted in the myths, and was spellbound by his lectures and especially the puns and humor. My only regret was that I took the class my senior year and couldn't pursue studying the ancient world more. David was one of the kindest professors I had, always greeting me and exchanging comments when we met in the music building or on campus. After graduating our paths crossed again at a Walker Arts Center series of classes and at a few concerts and I remember fondly sharing notes and thoughts then. Despite only knowing David for that short time, I treasured those interactions and feel deep sorrow at his passing and deep appreciation for what he brought to our community. May he rest in peace knowing how he is so well-loved and how he was so inspirational to soo many. 

  • 2016-03-30 20:40:01
    Pamela Espeland '73

    Deeply saddened to learn that David Porter has died. I learned about Greek mythology from him -- in a large class, which he made feel like a very small class -- and heard my first Eric Satie in one of his concerts. I have thought about him many, many times in the years since: how he opened my eyes and ears and mind, how learned and gracious, joyous and generous he was. And how, back when there were chalkboards, he would furiously scribble something on the board, erase it with his hand to make more writing room, then absentmindedly wipe his hand on the back of his pants. Go with the gods, Mr. Porter, and stay chalky.

  • 2016-03-30 20:47:10
    Felix Braendel 1964

     I took Mr.Porter's Greek Mythology course in perhaps his first or second year at Carleton--he was only a few years older than we were, and it was a good class--but until these tributes was unaware of his musical accomplishments, nor (I never spoke with him) of his excellent effect on so many.  May current and future Carleton students be so lucky as to have teachers of his quality.

  • 2016-03-30 20:48:00
    Tim Pile

    My favorite CC prof; in my first term, fall 1964, he made Greek Mythology come alive. He loved talking about it and teaching it (esp. the double entendres). And who knew back then he had the props to be college president?  An authentic Renaissance man.  Rest in peace, David.

  • 2016-03-30 20:56:35
    Sirasa Schonder, '88

    I was blessed to have him as a piano professor for two years until he became President. I also had the opportunity to perform an Ives duet with him at a contemporary music concert. I will always treasure those times and remember his warmth, wit, and wonderful sense of humor. He will be dearly missed.

  • 2016-03-30 21:21:34
    Barbara Wall Coe, '63

    I was fortunate to hear David Porter play at Drew University, for a Memorial Service tribute to Dr. Merrill McGuire Skaggs, my PhD dissertation advisor, who also passed away much too young! I introduced myself as a Carleton alum and he greeted me as an old friend, even though that was the first and only time we ever met. I can well understand the tributes other alums have shared who knew him more personally than I did. He will be sadly missed.

  • 2016-03-30 21:37:43
    Anne Becker '90

    I only knew President Porter for one year, my first at Carleton.  Even so, he made a huge impression on me with his gentle, humorous, warm, and thoughtful manner.  When he spoke to you, you got the sense that he was truly listening and focused on what you had to say, not distracted or thinking about his next task.  Despite not having had any contact with him since 1987, he was the person who came to mind a few weeks ago when I was asked to think of someone who exemplified the very best in leadership qualities.  My heartfelt condolences go out to President Porter's family and friends, as well as to those who knew him only a short time and yet felt as if they had known him for years. 

  • 2016-03-30 21:40:57
    Chuck Levin, '81

    I entered Carleton wanting to major in music, and had been recommended to sign up with Bill Nelson for piano (himself a fine pianist and professor). I was disappointed to be assigned, instead, to someone named David Porter. But at our first encounter, it became immediately apparent I was in the company of a brilliant mind and unique talent. For four years, every week, I had the unsurpassed privilege to spend an hour lesson  (actually he usually gave me closer to two hours) with him, during which he would charm, cajole, provide literary and artistic references to musicians, classicists, writers, historians, or artists in order to provide context for a musical thought or idea and to expand my musical horizon.  And sometimes he would mentor by demonstration - and his own pianistic abilities, make no mistake about it, were phenomenal. After each lesson I would float, not walk, across campus, literally dazed by the experience.  We have remained steadily in touch since then, and his personal warmth, to say nothing of his academic and musical exploits, have never ceased to amaze. David was also an absolutely brilliant harpsichordist, and his many performances while I was at Carleton of the French baroque, especially,  still stand out as some of the finest concerts I have ever heard.  Needless to say, I also took his Greek Myth class, which I expected to be a let down in comparison with my intense involvement studying piano with him. It wasn't. His lectures, as so many others have noted on this cite, were also brilliant and memorable, and the class was always the first or one of the first to fill up at registration.  David noted in his last Christmas letter that he had cancer, but was characteristically upbeat about it, making one of his endless puns about the subject. My own memories of Carleton are inextricably bound with memories of David Porter. This is the sad end of a wonderful legacy! 

  • 2016-03-30 23:30:56
    Pearl Lam Bergad, '66

    David Porter was the most welcoming person I met during freshman week in the fall of 1962. I was so fortunate to be selected to be one of his piano students. His unique combination of gentle caring and gracious sternness, tied to a cheerful disposition, provided the anchor that I needed to prosper at Carleton. He and Laudie took me into their home and had me over for my first Thanksgiving. I will always remember him playing the Schubert Eb Impromptu after dinner.

     Through four years of piano lessons and Greek Mythology, and many years of staying in touch afterwards, I came to understand David's embodiment of the ideals of a liberal arts education: that one becomes as accomplished in a field outside of one’s major as one is in one’s major.   He has remained my role model to this day.

     I will follow Mimi Carlson’s lead and perform at our 50th reunion a work that I first learned from David: Schubert’s Ab Impromptu. David, Everett, Helen, and Hugh, I had such fun babysitting you all! My deep condolences to you and to Helen.

  • 2016-03-31 00:58:36
    Dale Fierke, '75

    I wish to offer my condolences to David Porter's family. This weekend I was thinking of him (unaware of his passing). I was puzzling over a Greek word, and a whole array of memories came back to me - memories of sitting in Greek 1 class (Winter 1973), listening to David testify to the beauty of the language and watching him demonstrate the nobility of scholarship. I was not good at Greek, but I thoroughly enjoyed his class. I did not know him well at all, but I consider him a mentor. And I am comforted by the prospect that he has inspired a multitude of young scholars that will help keep the world safe for knowledge and art.     

  • 2016-03-31 06:18:49
    Larnzell Martin '72

    I too had the special privilege of taking Professor Porter's Greek Literature in Translation and Classical Greek Mythology courses.  After a few classes of the first course in which I was enrolled, I knew that I would take the other one.  I was mesmerized when Professor Porter read passages in Greek.  I also still have most of the books from his courses, along with one "mini-play" that I wrote (yes, I labeled it that at the time) for Classical Greek Mythology.  I just pulled it out and Professor's hand-written comments at its end bring back vivid memories of someone who helped make Carleton special for me.

    To the family and fellow Carls, my prayers and sympathy are offered. 

  • 2016-03-31 06:33:31
    Leah Ruby Williams, '82

    I am so very sorry to hear of David Porter's death.  He was my favorite Carleton professor -- always welcoming and always inspiring. I was a chemistry major, but I was fortunate to take piano lessons from him all four years.  I don't think he took on many non-music majors as students, and I was very grateful.  The hours I practised and the hours I spent taking lessons from David were my refuge at Carleton.  He pushed me to explore modern music, and he created opportunities for me to accompany other musicians.  He always had an interesting story or funny tale.  And when I occasionally burst into tears, he listened patiently and gave me excellent advice.  And, of course, I took Greek Mythology!  What a great course.  Where else would I have had the opportunity to recite poetry in Greek. And I think about that course when I use Greek letters as scientific symbols.  I have thought about David often over the years, especially when my kids started piano lessons.  It reminded me how incredibly lucky I had been to know him. My deepest sympathy to his family and to the Carleton community.

  • 2016-03-31 15:30:05
    Cynthia (Kelley) Hinds'69

    David Porter was a giant in my life. As a Freshman, thinking I would be a biology major I took Greek as my foreign language requirement. I never majored in Biology, but rather I majored in Greek. I took every course David had to offer and I also became his piano student. After receiving a Master's degree in Classical Languages, i returned to Carleton and for two years had the privilege of being a teaching assistant for Professor Porter. I also baby sat for his family. One of my great joys was reviewing blue books from the exams with him. His passion for teaching, his sense of humor ( he introduced us to PDQ Bach) and his enthusisam for life were contagious. He was my favorite teacher. He was also a mentor and a friend. He was then and is now a part of my life.

  • 2016-03-31 16:15:00
    Jim Phillips

    Professor Porter was my freshman advisor in 1970.  He was a kind, thoughtful man.  My sympathies to his family. 

  • 2016-03-31 17:44:55
    Doug Peckler

    David Porter was really a gem.  He turned on a lot of people not only to classics, but literature in general.  A delightful man.  I also had the good fortune of learning flute from Laudie P.   So happy to have met the both of them during a relatively recent classical age. 


  • 2016-04-01 07:39:07
    Eric Guttag '74

    I remember fondly taking David Porter's Greek Mythology and Greek Literature in Translation courses.  The classes were very large and contained students from different years (sophomore, junior, senior), but David could hold our attention and make a distinction impression on each of us.  He would sometimes read to us in classic Greek, and even though we couldn't understand a word of it, enjoyed it's musical cadence.  But what I enjoyed most was when several members of our class did the play Lysistrata in the "mini-amphitheater" behind Olin with David painting his nose red and playing the "drunk" in the play (he did have a wry sense of humor)!  He'll be missed greatly by all of us who knew him and were his students, but at least the memories will persist.

  • 2016-04-01 09:39:55
    Anne Smith Colman '73

    Since becoming a teacher myself, I've found Mr. Porter's example of encouraging creative responses to literature a huge influence.  Finding the courage to read aloud a poem to a large lecture hall and to act in a student-produced performance of Lysistrata were highlights of my Carleton classes, and I marvel at Mr. Porter's patience and enthusiasm for the projects he took the time to encourage in even his large survey classes.  I'm very thankful our times at Carleton coincided and wish his family many wonderful memories of Northfield.

  • 2016-04-01 11:34:59
    Karen Graff Scholnick '66

    It's all been said here, many times over. I'd simply add my appreciation. Mr. Porter came the year our class started Carleton, and he embodied for me the best of Carleton in his Greek Mythology class, his music and his unflaggable energy and commitment to us and to the school. Reading through the farewells brings it all back. Thank you!

  • 2016-04-01 14:46:35
    Barbara Pitkin

    Add me to the long list of Carls who took David Porter's Greek Mythology class and found it to be an amazing and transformative intellectual experience. I remember relishing the freedom he gave with respect to the final project, and in my case this meant writing a paper on Nikos Kazantzakis's The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel. I have a vivid image of sitting my room in Sevy pounding that one out on my typewriter.  Heartfelt condolences to his family and the Carleton Community.

  • 2016-04-01 17:59:45
    Linda Clader

    I came to Carleton as a freshman intending to become a Latin major, but then I decided to take Greek Lit in Translation in spring of that year.  It is not an overstatement to say that taking that course changed the direction of my life.  David's dynamic lectures inspired me from the start, especially infecting me with a love of Homer.  I became a Classics major, went on to grad school, got a doctorate, and returned to teach in David's department for 18 years.  

    But that's just the professional sketch.  David and Laudie welcomed me into their family, both when I was a student and also later as a colleague.  I baby-sat their three oldest children.  I painted their picket fence.  As a student, I borrowed their car to drive to the Cits for a production of "The Magic Flute".  I can't count the number of meals we shared in their home.  David was my teacher, my mentor, my boss, and my friend.  

    Of course I was dazzled by David's genius, the amazing breadth and depth of his gifts.  At the same time, like several others who have written, above, I benefited over and over from his patience and generosity.  He was one of the most important influences in my own career as a teacher.  I am deeply grateful for his time among us.

  • 2016-04-02 10:39:56
    Meg Robson Mahoney

    When I graduated from Carleton in 1972, I had taken only two courses from David Porter, but his mark was indelible. Several years later when I discovered that the path I was pursuing in life -- dance -- should have included more study within his fields, I wrote to him for advice on how to continue my exploration of music informally. His detailed, enthusiastic written response gave me just what I needed. Given how much he was able to inspire me with his gentle touch -- and how sad I am to hear of his passing, my sympathy goes to those whose lives he touched daily. The way he lived gives meaning to life for all who knew him.

  • 2016-04-02 13:25:34
    Richard Moss '77

    I never took a class from David, but he still taught me so much about the importance of professional excellence and community. I remember his smile and laugh around rehearsals and performances. He was the epitome of his faculty colleagues who opened not only their minds but their hearts and lives to their students. I'll always think of his as a life well lived. My condolences to his family and close friends.

  • 2016-04-02 15:37:03
    Terry Moore '78

    Two memories of an extraordinary man: the only lectures I've ever given a standing ovation were several of David's (Mythology, naturally).  And we arranged a special performance of PDQ Bach's IPHEGENIA IN BROOKLYN, and David played the magnificent harpsichord cadenza with his customary wit and skill.  The best of Carleton.

  • 2016-04-02 18:05:06
    Sargent Wood '86

    I remember when he told me, with a twinkle in his eye, about the fantastic imagination the Carleton students had in the Sixties.

    I'd come to Carleton in the 80s, with a more practical, utilitarian bent.

    He was encouraging me to imagine and that is a powerful message for a professor to convey to his students.

    He will be missed.




  • 2016-04-04 13:29:15
    Scott Fargo '82

    Learning can be fun.  David Porter was a testament to that thought.  He was smart and interesting and fun.  Who better to experience a liberal arts education from?  I am glad that I had the opportunity to take his class in Mythology and to participate in a "play".  Pushing yourself to memorize lines and internalize them was definitely a growth experience.   Thank you Dr. Porter.    I only wish I could have heard some of his music too, which sounds wonderful from the above comments.



  • 2016-04-04 16:47:59
    Kathy Valyi '73

    I knew David Porter fleetingly, even interviewing with him when he was President of Skidmore, but that made the warmth of his direct conversation all the more uplifting. In truth, as I write this, I am channeling the admiration of my dear Carleton friend, who died days after our graduation, Jean Schmidt. Jean was the Porters' children's regular babysitter and was so close to David, Laudie and the children. He, in turn, stayed in touch with Jean's mother in the many years after Jean died. He took the time to be personal when the numbers of his devoted students (and even their families) would have been overwhelming to a lesser person. I think Jean's spirit joins me in expressing our sadness at his passing and sympathy to his surviving family.

  • 2016-04-04 20:25:18
    Michael Tobin

    As a senior Latin major I thought I should take Greek. I embarked on this endeavor my senior year, late because I was trying to complete a second major in biology. I took the two first courses in Greek from professor Porter. His classes did not merely include grammar and syntax, instead he pointed out the pattern of the language and how it related to the culture and the literature. We read the New Testament- only at Carleton! David pointed out the nuances of translation and made the messages contemporary. Finally, with a looming death in the family I found I could no longer handle the double major. Biology comps were easier and more straight forward. I'm sure that David along with Jackson Bryce and Linda Clader were instrumental in communicating to the biology department that I was now to be their major. They shaped my future - I will always be indebted. The rigors and discipline I garnered from Latin and Greek will remain with me always. I regret not having taken more classes from David, but I did get to witness some wonderful musical performances by David and Laudie. David was a gem amongst a field of diamonds!  

  • 2016-04-06 21:14:19
    Kara Keeling '83

    I took David Porter's Greek Myth class my first term at Carleton.  It was a big class in Olin's lecture hall, one of the biggest classes I had, with many upperclassmen as well as freshmen because it was one of the legendary Carleton courses to take when taught by him.  

    He frequently referred to "enthusiasm" and its Greek roots meaning to be "inspired" by a god, to have the god breathe through you--and of course David Porter personified this quality himself daily in his lectures to the class, which kept us all engaged despite the large size. I saw that enthusiasm too when I attended a Convocation lecture he gave in which he demonstrated how many ways he could play piano ... without ever sitting and touching the keys conventionally. That term seemed to me, in that first term there, to embody the Carleton spirit, and my memories of that course have remained a touchstone ever since.  Carleton was fortunate to have David Porter as a faculty member, and though I was a very ordinary student in his class I have always counted myself fortunate to have started my Carleton career with him. 

  • 2016-04-07 15:23:17
    Mary Hirsch '80

    As with many others, I thoroughly enjoyed David Porter's class on Greek Mythology. He had many of us reading in Greek, if only briefly, but we did it and are better people for having made the effort. He was a great teacher and a kind man. As a non-music major I decided to participate in a recital (oboe) and was touched to see him tuning the harpsichord before our grand musical event and then later, in the audience! His humor, focus and humanity have always been an inspiration to me. I am sad knowing that he is gone, and wish to express my sympathy to his family.

  • 2016-04-11 17:03:31
    Michael Griffin '75

    David Porter was one of several wonderful teachers at Carleton in the early 1970s who modeled a life of learning for me, who taught me the great and lasting value of a liberal arts education. I have been trying to live up to their example ever since. Thank you Prof. Porter.

  • 2016-04-11 23:57:25
    John Padorr '76

    So sad to hear of Professor Porter’s passing. My favorite teacher, he was warm, funny, brilliant, and he taught by example how to approach literature, and life itself, with a sense of delight and awe. He even made Ancient Greek grammar fun.

  • 2016-04-14 19:56:18
    Anita Johnson Katter '81

    I have very fond memories of sitting in Olin in a large class (for Carleton) entranced by his lectures on Greek Mythology with all his beautiful free-ranging thought. At the end of one, I remember the entire class stood up and gave him a standing ovation.  May his memory live on.

  • 2016-04-19 13:49:59
    Nancy Wilkie

    The Classics Department at Carleton College mourns the loss of David Porter, a long standing member and chair of the department whose reputation as a teacher and scholar is unparalleled.  David was responsible for the growth of the department, hiring Linda Clader, Jackson Bryce and me within a very few years of one another.  Upon my arrival at Carleton, I learned that I was to team teach Mythology with David, a rather intimidating prospect since the course had such an enthusiastic following.  I fondly remember the puns and cartoons that David used to enliven his lectures, and the cakes, water ballets and performances we shared as the students fulfilled the independent project requirement for the course. 

    In recent years David and I reconnected, working together to raise funds to energize Classics on the national level. Yet despite his many other obligations, David never forgot Carleton and was eager to help in whatever way he could to help the Classics department to flourish.  I will miss him greatly, as will all of his former Carleton colleagues and students.    

  • 2016-05-01 13:08:55
    Scott McNairy 1971

    As a busy Arts/Pre-Med Carl (also a theater groupie who enjoyed setting the stage for Greek plays and designing posters to promote his music concerts) I came to audit his entry level Translation class late in my senior year.  How fitting that his lectures were held in the sizeable Olin Hall of Science. He truely made ancient Greek literature come alive and relevant to our times (then endless exploits of war in SE Asia and now again in SW Asia for a noble but headstrong country's young men & women). The forgotten lessons and folly of ancient history were doomed to be repeated as he so aptly illustrated while the Carleton campus agonized through the late 60s.

    My advice to budding bio-science majors: take more Shakespeare, Greek lit. and European History earlier on. Those are not lost arts by any stretch for the sciences.  I hope Dr. Porter has mentored enough scholars to carry on the inspired teaching of these valuable Classics to younger generations and that they in turn can have the patience to digest the source materials in an age of the internet and its instant gratifications.  His inspirational teaching legacy is secure for generations of Carls that met him as these numerous commentors can attest.

  • 2016-12-12 19:44:19
    Gar Hoerschgen 1964

    I had Prof Porter for 2nd year Latin. He was one of the absolute best most charming teachers I ever had. I believe he was the only prof I had that called me in to discuss how I was doing. He really impressed me. I remember to this day what a great teacher and person he was. His passing is sad.

  • 2019-10-02 10:41:44