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EMU Foundation

Foundation Gift Provides Educational Opportunities for All

by Jeff Samoray

When John W. Porter became EMU president in 1979, the University’s future was precarious. Faced with faltering support from state legislators and in danger of closing, Porter rolled up his sleeves and got to work. He immediately developed a comprehensive revitalization, stabilization and expansion plan; created metrics for measuring success; and earned the backing of Lansing. Thanks to Porter’s tough and tenacious leadership, Eastern not only survived—it experienced a remarkable period of success and growth. Enrollment increased, academic programs launched, fundraising grew and athletics programs improved. Porter retired from Eastern in 1989, but his legacy continues today.

In 1991, EMU’s College of Education (COE) created the John W. Porter Distinguished Chair in Urban Education. The chair provides for the appointment of an annual scholar who assists EMU in actively expanding its role in urban school districts in Michigan, with an emphasis on school-community partnerships. Recently, the chair added an annual speaker series. Nationally known educators with expertise in effective models of collaboration and partnerships visit the campus to speak about methods of eliminating barriers to success for urban students.

Porter remained active as a distinguished civic and educational leader until his death in June 2012. After leaving Eastern, he was superintendant of Detroit Public Schools for two years, was appointed to various national commissions and councils by five U.S. presidents, published books and papers on urban education, and continued to serve as a Charles Stuart Mott Foundation trustee.

To honor Porter’s distinguished service to the State of Michigan, EMU and Michigan philanthropy, the Mott Foundation recently granted $225,000 in endowment funding to support distinguished chair activities. The generous gift brought the chair’s endowment to $1.6 million.

“I’m delighted that the Mott Foundation shares a common vision for our community,” says Eastern COE Dean Jann Joseph. “This significant gift will allow the College of Education to continue expanding its commitment to the community, making a difference in the lives of urban children and creating positive change in the region.”

Donna Welch, one of Porter’s daughters, is assistant superintendent of Administrative Services for Huron Valley Schools. She says her father focused on academic achievement for all young students throughout his career.

“Dad believed your geographic location or economic status shouldn’t hinder your drive to pursue additional education,” she says. “He also believed that school and community partnerships could help foster the drive to help our youth understand the benefits of education and realize their dreams. Eastern is perfectly poised to make this possible.”

Don Loppnow, professor of Social Work at EMU, served as director of research development under Porter. He says Porter would have been touched by the Mott Foundation’s gift.

“John cared deeply about the challenges of education in urban settings and would have been humbled by this wonderful gift,” Loppnow says. “His scholarly interests focused on urban education and how to improve it. The Chair in Urban Education captures his passion and has a tremendous impact on the community and students within the College of Education.”

EMU Foundation is located at 112 Welch Hall, 850 W. Cross St., Ypsilanti, MI, USA 48197 Phone: 734.484.1322