If you search for David H. Porter on the Skidmore College web site, the first of the 226 search results takes you to a brief biography on the portion of the site devoted to sketches of all of Skidmore’s presidents written on the occasion of the College’s centennial in 2003. A portion of that biography tells you that, during his tenure from 1987 to 1999, “Dr. Porter helped lead the largest fund-raising effort in Skidmore’s history, the Skidmore Journey: A Campaign for Our Second Century, launched in 1993. The five-year campaign raised $86.5 million, enabling the college to substantially increase its endowment . . .”
After such effort, no one would blame Professor Porter for abandoning fund raising altogether so that he could devote his complete attention to teaching, scholarship, and music once again. Indeed, since his retirement from Skidmore’s presidency, he has done a great deal of all three. Since 2000, however, he has also served as Chair of the APA’s Development Committee and since 2005 he has been a member of the Steering Committee for the APA Gateway Campaign. In those positions he built the foundation for and contributed mightily to the successful outcome of the Campaign.
When Professor Porter became Chair of the Development Committee, the APA had not even had such a committee for almost a decade. After only a year in that position, however, Professor Porter persuaded the Board of Directors to take steps to increase the very low number of members who contributed to the Association’s annual giving campaign and to conduct a long-range planning exercise where it could set ambitious goals for new activities that would improve the field. With renewed Board support for annual giving, the Committee was able in just a few years to increase from 4% to 13% the percentage of the total membership who make donations. Using the long-range goals established by the Board in 2002, the Committee assembled lists of potential donors (both individuals and foundations) and made some initial approaches to these prospects.
All this work by the Committee gave the APA an advantage as it embarked on the Gateway Campaign. As Development Chair, Professor Porter worked closely with the consultant whom we hired to conduct the Campaign’s feasibility study and then to help us to carry out the Campaign itself. He made vital contributions to the work of the Steering Committee and all the while made sure that the Development Committee continued to craft effective annual giving appeals. This task, of course, was made more difficult by the fact that the APA was simultaneously soliciting donations to the Gateway Campaign, but annual giving has continued to be an important source of Association income throughout the Campaign. As the Campaign winds down, Professor Porter is as eager as ever to make sure that the Development Committee establishes long-term fund-raising goals at the same time as it meets current needs.
Professor Porter’s other contributions to Classics and the humanities are many. Simply by being a successful college president, he gave a persuasive answer to the perennial question, “What can you do with a degree in that?” Since his presidency, he has continued to teach a full schedule of courses in a variety of subjects, first at Williams College and now back at Skidmore. He is a strong and frequent voice for the Classics and a liberal arts education in publications both general (e.g., The New Yorker, New York Times, Boston Globe) and specialized (e.g., The Chronicle of Higher Education). Because of his interest in reaching a wider public, he volunteered to serve on the APA’s Outreach Committee while the Campaign was in full swing. His scholarship extends from Homer to the twentieth century and includes books on Horace, Greek tragedy, Willa Cather, Virginia Woolf, and pianist Edward Steuermann, with whom he studied from 1955 to 1962. Since the mid-'60s he has been giving piano recitals across the country, and as a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar in 1994-95 he offered not only lectures in classics but also a lecture-recital on Charles Ives and John Cage entitled "The Well-Tampered Clavier."
The APA is indeed fortunate that this more-than-renaissance man has been willing to give so much of his time to both the present and future needs of the Association.