Farewell Punctuated by Tears, Memories
Published: Friday, February 18, 2011
Updated: Sunday, February 20, 2011 12:02
Georgetown said goodbye to one of its leaders Thursday evening, and a sheepish smile played across the face of Daniel Porterfield (COL '79) as he exited stage-right to a dramatic round of applause.
Porterfield, vice president of strategic development, was honored one final time during a reception in Copley Formal Lounge before he leaves today to begin preparing for his new role as President of Franklin and Marshall University in Lancaster, Pa. He assumes his new position on March 1.
"I feel like I'm bringing a lot of Georgetown with me to Franklin and Marshall," Porterfield said in an exclusive interview with The Hoya two weeks ago. "Georgetown has a belief in our students, in their talent, in their potential. Education is about inspiring people to become the best they can be — that's something I learned from Georgetown professors past."
University President John J. DeGioia served as the host of the reception, which included Georgetown senior administrators, Jesuits, Georgetown alums, students and friends and family of the Porterfields.
"[Porterfield] has been a leader, teacher, colleague, mentor and friend on the Hilltop," DeGioia said in his opening remarks. He later presented Porterfield with a parting gift — a replica of the original charter of Georgetown University passed by the House of Representatives.
"It's hard to know what [ideas were] me and what were you," Porterfield said of DeGioia. "Thank you for having faith in me."
DeGioia (COL '79, GRD '95) first met Porterfield when the latter was a sophomore living in Copley Hall and the future university president was serving as the hall director. Porterfield would eventually find himself back in Copley in 2003, living in the basement of the hall with his wife, Karen Hurling (COL '80), and their three daughters. The couple met while both were working as resident assistants and were eventually married in Dahlgren Chapel by Fr. Otto Hentz, S.J., a former professor of Porterfield's.
"I do have blue and gray blood in my veins. I'm always an alumnus. I was formed, in many ways, at Georgetown," Porterfield said in his exit interview, discussing his continuing relation with the university. "But also, anyone who has ever taught somebody has a continuing responsibility to that student."
According to DeGioia, Porterfield has done more than live up to that heavy responsibility.
"You have given so many Hoyas the opportunity to understand what it means to live in and contribute to and create community," a teary-eyed DeGioia said before an eruption of applause.
Recruited by former University President Fr. Leo O'Donovan, S.J., to return to the Hilltop in 1997, Porterfield only agreed to work for the administration on the grounds that he was allowed to teach, prompting his hiring and eventual tenure in the English department. Porterfield's last course was entitled "Those Who Teach, Lead," which took 27 students to New York for a weekend last fall to meet with leaders in education.
"I think real education grows out of each individual's needs. As a professor, you try to be responsive to each person's eminent individuality," Porterfield said two weeks ago. "There are times where I haven't been as aware as I've wanted to be. But you try, and people appreciate if you try."
Living up to the title of his course, Porterfield has been instrumental in developing a relationship between the Cristo Rey Network and Georgetown, which, according to Porterfield, is the leader in matriculating students from Cristo Rey.
"We're number one in recognizing the extraordinary achievement of the students who graduate from Cristo Rey," Porterfield said. "We have outcompeted Brown, Duke, Northwestern and Chicago, for specific students, in the last few years, and it is great to see us set a goal and go achieve that goal."
Reina Garcia (COL '11), a student from Cristo Rey Chicago, has interned for Porterfield for three years and now serves as a mentor for 24 Cristo Rey high school students.
"I probably would not be at Georgetown right now if it weren't for you," Garcia said to Porterfield at the going-away party. "I cannot imagine Georgetown without you."
Porterfield also leaves behind a legacy of heavy involvement in the D.C. Schools Project and Teach for America. He previously served as interim athletic director from 2009 to 2010, when the current AD, Lee Reed, was hired.
"We will miss Dan," Reed said. "Athletics certainly, but the university and students will feel the impact of not having him around. But he has a great opportunity in front of him."
Porterfield acknowledged that had Reed not come along, he would have served another year as AD. Yet fate intervened, and Porterfield plans on teaching a course at his new home next spring, depending on what the students want him to teach.
"You remove one person, it doesn't make much of a difference," Porterfield said at the event last night. "The network is [Georgetown's] strength."
Porterfield then raised his phone, and began discussing a different type of network.
"I've announced on Facebook that I am now on Twitter!" Porterfield said to laughter. "So I'm sending my first tweet right here from the podium: ‘To Georgetown, from the Porterfield's, thank you and we love you.'"