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Remarks by President John J. DeGioia

Farewell Reception for Dr. Daniel R. Porterfield

Copley Formal Lounge
Georgetown University
February 17, 2011

Good evening everyone.  Thank you for joining us tonight to celebrate the depth of contribution that Dan Porterfield and his family have made to this Georgetown community. There was some debate about whether there would be enough space here in Copley Formal Lounge to accommodate all those who wanted to be here this evening: The answer is “no.” 

And yet, there could not be a more appropriate location to come together than in Copley, where Dan, his wife, Karen Herrling (C’84, L’90); his daughters, Lizzie, Caroline, Sarah have made their home, where they have welcomed so many students, alumni, colleagues and friends as members of their extended family over the past eight years.

It is no coincidence that the Porterfields live in the heart of this campus community. Since arriving back at Georgetown in 1997, and moving into Copley in 2003, Dan, Karen and their daughters have helped us all to understand the meaning of “cura personalis,” that idea of “care for the person,” which lies at the core of Georgetown’s mission and identity, much more deeply. 

For Dan, this all-encompassing approach to education has come in many forms. Whether leading a classroom discussion on Human Rights or the Poetry of American Prisoners; mentoring student groups like STAND and Hermanos Unidos; hosting a dinner with his family for students living on their floor here in Copley; giving a Last Chance Lecture; watching Lizzie and Caroline steal the show by participating in Rangila; or ensuring that his ice cream freezer was always stocked and open, Dan has continued to be a teacher, friend, colleague, mentor and leader on this Hilltop.

Before I offer a few more words about what Dan, Karen and their family have meant for Georgetown, I’d like to introduce another colleague who has come to know Dan very well, and who has collaborated with him inside the classroom and out. 

Few would argue that the two, together, make a nearly unstoppable team of Hoyas. Dr. Tony Arend, would you please come say a few words?

***

Thank you, Tony.

Now I would like to introduce our second speaker, Reina Garcia, a senior in the College. Reina has been an intern in Dan’s Office of Public Affairs and Strategic Development since her sophomore year. A graduate of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, Reina has spent time here at Georgetown developing the University’s relationship with the Cristo Rey community: She founded a tutoring program through Georgetown’s Center for Social Justice at Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School in Takoma Park, Maryland and also served as a mentor for 24 Cristo Rey Network high school students that spent part of their summer at Georgetown in a pre-college summer program.   After graduation, she will begin working as a teacher in Chicago.  Reina, could you please come up to the podium?

***

Thank you, Reina. 

I mentioned earlier the role that Dan and his family have had in embodying this commitment we have here at Georgetown to “cura personalis.” A second characteristic of his engagement has been a commitment to social justice. In every role he has played here at Georgetown, going all the way back to his undergraduate days, he has embodied this commitment. Whether in establishing the DC Schools Project or the After-Schools Kids Project back in the 1980’s, or more recently in developing our relationship with Teach for America and our ties with The Cristo Rey Network, Dan has ensured that Georgetown responds to the challenge of Father Pedro Arrupe, that our Jesuit institutions embody a commitment to social justice.

As a member of our faculty in the Department of English since 1997, Dan has regularly taught literature courses dealing with human rights, education and social justice. He also has mentored countless students, in partnership with Dr. John Glavin, in their application processes for fellowships around the world. 

All of these encounters with students have been strengthened enormously by the decision Dan and Karen have made to live on Georgetown’s campus. Their support of the student community here has been unparalleled, whether by hosting or attending formal events, or simply by being present to act as listeners and mentors.  Their efforts to make students a central part of their family’s life – by hiring them as babysitters, tutors for their daughters, piano instructors, dance instructors – has given many, many Hoyas the opportunity to understand what it means to live in, contribute to, and create community.

While this moment of departure is bittersweet, I know that Dan’s leadership at Franklin and Marshall will transform that community, as he has similarly strengthened this community over the past fourteen years.

Dan, let me simply say, “thank you.”  I turn the podium over to you.

***

Thank you, Dan. 

I want to close by offering you a gift of thanks. This frame holds a replica of the original charter of Georgetown University: a charter enacted by the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, “to admit any of the students belonging to said College, or other person meriting academical honors, to any degree in the faculties, arts, sciences, and liberal professions, to which persons are usually admitted in other Colleges or Universities of the United States.”

This Charter provided the foundation for a university community dedicated to a breadth of learning experiences, an openness to all students “of merit”, and a deep connection to the ideals of a developing nation…the call for each of us, through education, to become our very best selves. 

In your work here at Georgetown you have helped us to live out and even beyond these ideals, leaving this community stronger, yet resonating with the values that it holds true nearly 200 years later.

Thank you.

 

 

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