His national leadership calling on higher education to improve college access and opportunity for high-achieving students from underserved populations recently has earned Franklin & Marshall College President Daniel R. Porterfield, Ph.D., three invitations to the White House and prominent mentions in The New York Times. Shortly after graduation, it will carry him to New York City, where he'll receive the Eugene M. Lang Lifetime Achievement Award from the "I Have A Dream" Foundation at its annual Spring Gala on June 10.
Founded in 1986 by Lang, a successful New York businessman who drew national acclaim for his promise five years earlier to a group of then-sixth-graders in East Harlem to pay their college tuition if they graduated from high school, the national "I Have A Dream" Foundation aims to motivate and empower children from lower-income communities to reach their education and career goals by providing a long-term program of mentoring, tutoring, and enrichment along with tuition assistance for higher education. During the past three decades, more than 200 "I Have A Dream" programs have operated in 29 states, Washington, D.C., and New Zealand, helping more than 15,000 "Dreamers" surmount obstacles to achieve higher education and pursue fulfilling careers in teaching, social work, sports, music, law, administration, and many other fields.
Still active -- at age 95 -- as the Foundation's chairman emeritus, Lang said, "We are thrilled to honor Dr. Daniel Porterfield at this year's Spirit of the Dream Spring Gala. His determination to provide students with the opportunities, support and other resources needed to get to and through college captures the essence of the 'I Have A Dream' Foundation's vision."
Porterfield has worked on expanding college opportunity his entire career. At Georgetown University, where he served as senior vice president for strategic development before coming to F&M, he developed education programs for public school students, immigrant students, and low-income students throughout Washington, D.C. He continues to sit on the board of the Cristo Rey Network of Catholic high schools that is changing the lives of students in many lower-income communities, and also serves as a board member of the Lenfest Foundation, university champions board member for Teach for America, on the advisory board of the national College Advising Corps, and as a trustee of the College Board.
In the past few years, F&M has emerged as a national leader in identifying solutions for college access and promoting partnerships with K-12 to create pipelines to higher education for lower-income students, many of them the first in their families to have the opportunity to attend college. In 2011, it launched F&M College Prep, an innovative three-week summer program for rising high school seniors that offers a true-to-life experience of college by combining substantive courses taught by F&M professors with communal life in the College's residence and dining halls.
Since its inception, more than 90 percent of students participating in F&M College Prep have gone on to matriculate at leading four-year institutions, including Harvard, Stanford, Brown, Georgetown, and Bucknell universities, the University of Texas at Austin, UCLA, UC-Berkeley, Pomona College, Spelman College, Lafayette College and F&M.
Also in 2011, F&M became the first liberal arts college in the nation (and only the third higher education institution overall) to partner with the Posse Foundation to enroll annually 10 full-scholarship students planning to major in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) disciplines. While representing the College at the White House Higher Education Summit in January, Porterfield pledged to extend F&M's commitment to sustaining its cohorts of Posse Foundation students interested in STEM fields though at least 2019.
"The 'I Have A Dream' Foundation and Franklin & Marshall College share a core commitment to ensuring that students of all backgrounds have the opportunity to pursue a college education that empowers them for lives of leadership. I'm proud that the Foundation has chosen to highlight F&M's work to expand college access, and am honored to receive the Eugene M. Lang Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of our efforts," Porterfield said.
Previous recipients of the award include Cesar Conde, president and COO of Univision Networks; Sheila Johnson, education philanthropist and co-founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET); Thomas H. Kean, former New Jersey governor and president of Drew University; Dr. John King Jr., New York State Education Commissioner; Mr. Lang; and Suzanne and Bob Wright, co-founders of Autism Speaks.
The Spring Gala is the "I Have A Dream" Foundation's preeminent event of the year and brings together hundreds of national educators, business and political leaders, and students and program alumni from across the country to celebrate the organization and engage new champions in the cause of closing the opportunity gap for children in low-income communities by providing them with academic and financial support as well as exposure to a life of possibility.