To view a video of Franklin & Marshall’s presidential announcement, click here.
In a special gathering of the Franklin & Marshall community this morning in Mayser Gymnasium, Chair of the Board of Trustees Larry Bonchek, M.D., P’91 announced that the Board has elected Daniel R. Porterfield, Ph.D., as the College’s 15th president. Porterfield, senior vice president for strategic development at Georgetown University, will assume leadership of Franklin & Marshall on March 1, 2011.
Joined on stage by F&M’s Presidential Search Committee and its chair, Trustee Sue Washburn ’73, Bonchek said that the task of searching for a new president ended much earlier than anticipated.
“Dan Porterfield proved so extraordinarily appealing, so talented and so incontestably right for F&M, for Lancaster, and for national leadership in higher education, that though the search committee had been evaluating a large group of eminently qualified candidates, it became almost immediately clear who would inevitably be our choice,” Bonchek said. “Dan is totally dedicated to using his considerable intellectual powers, his managerial talent, his personal magnetism, his strategic vision and his encompassing interest in those who learn and those who teach, to advance the welfare of Franklin & Marshall.”
Porterfield has wide-ranging responsibility at Georgetown, including oversight of communications, government relations, community relations, civic engagement, social impact strategy and intercollegiate athletics. A recipient of a Rhodes Scholarship and a Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities, he earned his Ph.D. in English from The Graduate Center of The City University of New York. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in English from Georgetown, and subsequently earned a second bachelor’s degree in English from Hertford College at Oxford University.
Porterfield succeeds John Fry, who became president of Drexel University on July 1. John F. Burness ’67 will continue to serve as interim president until Porterfield begins his official duties.
Following Bonchek’s announcement and an introduction by Washburn, Porterfield received an extended standing ovation. He then addressed the crowd in Mayser.
“What an honor to join you. A couple days ago I called my mom to tell her the exciting news. After signing her confidentiality agreement, she asked what drew me to Franklin & Marshall,” Porterfield said. “That was easy. 'Mom, I did my research. I made an objective and scientific discovery. What I’m going to tell you is not opinion. This is a rigorous, empirical, measurable, verifiable fact: Franklin & Marshall is the single finest liberal arts college in America.'”
Porterfield listed qualities of the College to support his statement, including “a remarkable history bound up in the American story and the lives of not one but two iconic heroes, and academic excellence expressed by faculty and students as a tradition of individualized learning at the mind’s limits.”
“This community is known for striving students, brilliant scholar-teachers, traditions of faculty governance, shared responsibility, professionalism, civility, administrative excellence, alumni engagement and collective self-government that I honor in joining you,” Porterfield said.
An assistant professor of English at Georgetown since 1997, Porterfield regularly teaches literature courses dealing with human rights, education and social justice. He and his family have lived in a residence hall on campus for more than seven years, and he is active in campus culture and life.
Prior to coming to Georgetown in 1997, he served for four years as a senior aide to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Donna E. Shalala.
A native of Baltimore, Porterfield is married to Karen A. Herrling, an advocacy attorney in state and local enforcement of immigrant rights. They have three school-age children and live in a residence hall on Georgetown’s campus. For more information on Porterfield, see his biography on the website of the president-elect.
F&M’s Presidential Search Committee, comprising trustees, faculty members, students and professional staff, began the search for the College’s next president last spring. While the committee evaluated a pool of high-quality candidates, Washburn says Porterfield stood out as the person whose leadership is right for F&M now.
“Over the past six-plus months, with the help of our search consultants Storbeck/Pimentel, our committee received nominations for and connected with hundreds of outstanding potential national and international candidates,” Washburn said. “As we narrowed the pool, the committee brought a healthy array of perspectives. Our discussions were impassioned. Yet we stayed focused on finding a president who would champion the liberal arts, lead fearlessly, manage skillfully and engender broad-based support for our students, our faculty and our mission. We found that person in Dan Porterfield.”
Members of the campus community who attended Tuesday’s announcement left with positive impressions of the College’s president-elect. Nicole Morano ’11 and Lilah Thompson ’11, both English majors, were excited to learn that Porterfield has a background in their field.
“I’m more than thrilled, especially with his involvement in human rights. He’s a teacher and understands students,” Thompson said. Added Morano, “And he has such a way with words.”
Tamara Goeglein, associate dean of the faculty and professor of English, also was excited following the announcement. “I’m honored that we have a humanist at the helm,” Goeglein says. “I can’t remember the last time someone quoted Yeats.”
“He’s amazing. He’s incredibly personable and makes connections with people in an instant,” says Sam Schmader ’12, who, along with Mona Lotfipour ’11 represented the student body on the Presidential Search Committee. “He genuinely wants to meet everyone on campus. We’re lucky to have him.”
Read more reaction from members of the F&M community here, and also in the Nov. 18 edition of The Diplomat.