Were he faced with the time-honored back-to-school writing assignment "What I did on my summer vacation," Franklin & Marshall College President Daniel R. Porterfield would have no shortage of material.
Since shortly after graduation in May, Porterfield has logged thousands of miles in the air and on the road meeting with potential funders and college leaders, in addition to speaking at major events like the annual Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado, one of the nation's premier public gatherings of thought leaders.
Porterfield was part of the festival's "The University at a Crossroads" track and joined fellow presidents from California State University-Northridge, Kenyon College and Wesleyan University for a presentation on how demographic changes, political tensions, and a shifting economy are informing the future of higher education.
Additional appointments on Porterfield's busy summer itinerary included meetings in June of the board of trustees of the College Board (the national nonprofit that administers the SAT and AP exams), and the Annapolis Group, an alliance of approximately 130 top liberal arts colleges. The group was founded in 1993 in Annapolis, Md., by a group of presidents including F&M's Richard Kneedler '65 and continues to be a leading voice in promoting greater public understanding of the goals of a liberal arts education.
"It's a ton of fun to advocate for F&M in the public space and to ask our supporters to invest in our students and faculty," said Porterfield. "At the same time, there's a massive amount happening on campus, from faculty-student research to all the building improvements, and from welcoming new colleagues to hosting high school students. It inspires me to be the best advocate I can be for F&M when I see how much drive our faculty and professional staff display throughout the summer. Every day really counts here."
In July, Porterfield traveled to Baltimore, Columbus, Ohio, Washington, D.C., and New York City for meetings with leaders from the Aspen Institute and Ithaka S+R (a nonprofit education research organization) about how America's top colleges and universities can develop strategies to expand college opportunity through increases in financial aid and new approaches to student recruitment.
"The success of our talent strategy and Next Generation Initiative has captured the attention of many in education, government, and the media who only a few years ago wouldn't believe that a leading liberal arts college like F&M could triple its percentage of Pell Grant students, raise the overall academic profile of the student body, and drive down students' average debt at graduation -- all at the same time," said Porterfield. "That has earned F&M a seat at the table for a growing number of important conversations about improving access and opportunity for students from the full American mosaic, and I am pleased and proud to be able to represent the College and all those in the campus community who have worked so hard to make F&M a national model for higher education in the 21st century."
Also in July, Porterfield gave a joint presentation with New York University President Andrew Hamilton to the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) in New York City, and followed up that engagement with remarks at the KIPP network of public charter schools' first-ever College Presidents Convening in Atlanta, part of the organization's annual summit.
Most of these trips also included visits with investors or prospective investors in F&M, including stops in Denver, Atlanta, San Diego, and San Francisco, along with New York, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia on the East Coast.
"I'm excited that through our campus's collective efforts, we have just concluded the most successful fundraising year in College history, with $31.2 million in gifts and pledges during Fiscal Year 2016 that ended on June 30," Porterfield said. "It's energizing to go out on the road and see firsthand how much our supporters believe in our mission."
"It's energizing to go out on the road and see firsthand how much our supporters believe in our mission."