by Debra Johnson, Published November 11, 2012
YPSILANTI - Paying tribute to a long-time educator, the John W. Porter Distinguished Chair in Urban Education (Porter Chair) recently received a $225,000 endowment from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation (Mott Foundation).
The grant will not only expand the university's role in urban school districts in Michigan, but also expose faculty and students to an array of outstanding educational models benefiting urban students.
"This grant is a fitting tribute to Dr. Porter and his legacy of a commitment to urban and community education," said William White, president and CEO of the Mott Foundation. "It serves as a meaningful way in which the Foundation can honor him for his insight, thoughtfulness, and his invaluable friendship."
John W. Porter, was the university's 17th president, who also served as a trustee for the Mott Foundation for nearly 32 years, before passing away this past June. To honor him and his distinguished service to the State of Michigan and to the university, the Mott Foundation's gift will bring the value of the Porter Chair's endowment to $1.5 million.
Created in 1991, the Porter Chair originally provided for the appointment of senior scholars who assisted Eastern in actively expanding its role in urban school districts in Michigan, with an emphasis on school-community partnerships. The grant was largely funded through contributions from the Herrick Foundation, the McGregor Fund, and a $381,000 grant from the Mott Foundation.
The structure of the Porter Chair was reconfigured in 2005 in order to reach larger audiences through an annual speaker series called the Porter Lecture Series. The new format was designed to bring educators with expertise in effective models of collaboration and partnerships together to eliminate academic barriers to success for urban students.
"The Porter Distinguished Chair grant will play a key role in achieving one or more of the initiatives we have planned for our office of urban, community, and international outreach," said Jann Joseph, dean of Eastern's College of Education. "A larger endowment will allow the College of Education to have more funds to attract an individual to serve as the Porter Chair."
Upon completion of the 2012-2014 Porter Lecture Series entitled Celebrating 100 Years of Special Education at EMU, the university plans to return to its original format by appointing an individual scholar to occupy the Porter Chair.
"We anticipate that having a person housed in the college for an extended period will increase opportunities for the Chair to teach, offer professional development workshops for teachers in our community, conduct research, and support our undergraduate and graduate programs," says Joseph.
In addition to the Porter Chair grant, the John W. Porter building was named after the former president as tribute to his "aggressive and enthusiastic leadership" in guiding Eastern from the brink of closure through a "decade of advancement" during his tenure.
Before assuming the presidency of Eastern, 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, serving as President of the Council of Chief State School Officers and 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.
For more information about the speakers and activities sponsored through the John W. Porter Distinguished Chair in Urban Education, visit the EMU College of Education Porter Chair homepage.