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Belknap Campus building named to honor Woodford, Harriett Porter

by UofL Today last modified Sep 08, 2010 04:59 PM

The University of Louisville will honor the late Woodford R. and Harriett B. Porter for their support of education, UofL and the community by naming a Belknap Campus building after them.

Belknap Campus building named to honor Woodford, Harriett Porter

Woodford R. Porter

The building that houses the College of Education and Human Development will be named for the couple at a Sept. 21 ceremony.

Woodford Porter served on that board from 1968 to 1991, and was the first African American trustee. He was a member of the UofL Board of Overseers, served on the UofL Foundation and the UofL Athletic Association Board of Directors, and was an adopted UofL alumnus.

He was "a mentor to me in the early part of my presidency," said UofL President James Ramsey, "and became one of my close friends.

"Woody worked his whole life to provide educational opportunities to everyone — black and white — and Harriett loved UofL so much. I just think naming the education building after them is an appropriate way to honor them," said Ramsey, who tasked a university-wide committee to find a way to honor the couple.

Woodford Porter was the patriarch of one of Louisville's most prominent African American families and owner of A.D. Porter and Sons Inc. funeral home, the area's longest-operating, privately held African American funeral home.

He was a community leader. In 1958, he became the first the first African American on the old Louisville school board. He was also the first African American on the board of Mid-America Bancorp, the holding company of the Bank of Louisville.

"The Porter family became leaders in the local community nearly a century ago, when Mr. Porter's father, A.D. Porter, Sr., became a successful funeral director. Mr. and Mrs. Porter continued that tradition and built upon it," noted Arts & Sciences Dean Blaine Hudson, who knew the Porter family as a child growing up in Louisville.

For UofL, Woodford Porter was a key player during the school's transition from that of a semi-private municipal university to a full-fledged state university. In 24 years as a UofL trustee, he served four terms as chairman and helped in persuading Kentucky's higher education council to designate UofL as Kentucky's major urban university.

"UofL would be a very different place without the leadership of and constant support from Woodford and Harriett Porter," Hudson said.

The building is not the first thing at UofL to be named for Woodford Porter. Because of his commitment to students, the Woodford R. Porter Scholarship was named for him in the 1980s. The scholarship provides academic and social support to students and promotes interaction, enhances leadership opportunities and development and encourages professional and graduate education.

Harriet Bibb Porter graduated from Central High School and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1943 from Louisville Municipal College. The school was absorbed into UofL, making her a UofL alumna.

As a professional educator, she taught grades 10 through 12 and remedial reading to students with mental disabilities. She also served as a school counselor at Central High School.

Harriett Porter was active on the board of the American Cancer Society's "Reach to Recovery" program.

"Mrs. Porter was always there — a fixture at social and athletic events, invariably gracious and graceful," Hudson said.

"Naming a building after the two of them is truly a great idea," he said. "They certainly earned it."

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