By ANN RICHARDS
Upon his retirement as Eastern Michigan University’s (EMU) 17th president, the John W. Porter Distinguished Chair in Urban Education was created to pay tribute to the longtime educator, known for his “aggressive and enthusiastic leadership” in guiding EMU from the brink of closure through a “decade of advancement.” Since that time, the Porter chair not only has helped expand the university’s role in urban school districts in Michigan, but exposed faculty and students to an array of outstanding educational models benefiting urban students.
John W. Porter
Porter, who also served as a trustee for the Mott Foundation for nearly 32 years, died in June 2012. To honor his distinguished service to the State of Michigan, EMU and Michigan philanthropy, the Mott Foundation recently granted $225,000 in endowment funding
to continue support for the activities made possible through the distinguished chair. The gift will bring the value of the chair’s endowment to $1.5 million.
“This grant is a fitting tribute to Dr. Porter and his deep commitment to urban and community education. Beyond that, it serves as a meaningful way for us to honor him for his service to the Mott Foundation, his wisdom and thoughtfulness, and his invaluable friendship,” said William S. White, president and CEO of the Foundation.
Created in 1991 and largely funded through contributions from the McGregor Fund and the Herrick and Mott foundations, the endowed chair originally provided for the appointment of an annual scholar who assisted EMU in actively expanding its role in urban school districts in Michigan, with an emphasis on school-community partnerships.
In 2005, the structure of the chair was reconfigured to reach larger audiences through an annual speaker series. The intent of the new format was to bring to campus educators with expertise in effective models of collaboration and partnerships designed to help eliminate academic barriers to success for urban students.
Upon completion of the 2012-14 Porter Lecture Series, Celebrating 100 Years of Special Education at EMU, the university plans to return to the original format by appointing an individual scholar to occupy the chair, according to Jann Joseph, dean of EMU’s College of Education.
“EMU’s College of Education is developing a new strategic plan that, upon implementation, will sustain our position as a leader in the preparation of educational professionals,” said Joseph. “One of our goals is to renew our commitment to outreach, including support for our graduates as well as classroom teachers. We also aim to strengthen our existing relationships with regional school districts, parent groups, and community colleges.
“The Porter Distinguished Chair will play a key role in one or more of the initiatives in our Office of Urban, Community, and International Outreach,” she said, noting that under the new plan, the College of Education also intends to utilize technology to extend its outreach internationally.
In addition to the chair, the John W. Porter College of Education Building at EMU is named for the former president.
Before assuming the presidency of EMU, Porter served as Michigan’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, becoming not only the nation’s youngest, but also the first African American educator to serve as a state school superintendent in the United States. He was instrumental in setting up the Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP), a standardized test still used by the state to gauge the academic progress of K-8 students. A distinguished civic and educational leader, who served as President of the Council of Chief State School Officers and was a member of the board of the National Urban League, Porter also served Presidents Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter and Bush through appointments to commissions and councils addressing higher education, employment and mental health.
More information about the speakers and activities sponsored through the John W. Porter Distinguished Chair in Urban Education is available from EMU’s College of Education.