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Education building name honors well-known, respected Louisville couple

by UofL Today last modified Sep 21, 2010 06:25 PM

The College of Education and Human Development now is housed in the Woodford R. and Harriett B. Porter Building - so named Sept. 21 for a well-known and highly respected Louisville couple.

Education building name honors well-known, respected Louisville couple

The Porter family

The Porters were entrepreneurs, community leaders, philanthropists and lifelong supporters of education at all levels. They especially were supporters of the University of Louisville.

"Woody and Harriett understood that a college education does more than build a brighter future for graduates; it also builds a better, stronger community," UofL President James Ramsey said.

Community leaders, family friends and others came out to see the unveiling of the building's name above the entryways.

"The names on the entrance to this building are the dreamers who asked 'why not' and then rolled up their sleeves and made it happen," Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson said to those in attendance. "How many times did I hear them say … education is the great equalizer."

The Porters, owners of the A.D. Porter and Sons Inc. Funeral Home, were one of Louisville's most prominent African American families.

Woodford Porter served on the UofL Board of Trustees from 1968 to 1991. The first African American trustee and board chair — a post he held four terms — helped persuade Kentucky's higher education council to designate UofL as Kentucky's major urban university. He died in 2006.

Harriett Bibb Porter was a graduate of Louisville Municipal College. UofL absorbed the college in the early 1950s, making her a UofL alumna. She was an educator, school counselor and a board member for the American Cancer Society's "Reach to Recovery" program. After her death in 2004, the family made a gift to the university to create the Harriett B. Porter Cancer Education & Research Endowment at UofL James Graham Brown Cancer Center.

One of the university's most prominent scholarships — the Woodford R. Porter Scholarship — was named for him in the 1980s. Both Porters were supportive of the Society of Porter Scholars. The program provides monetary, academic, social and leadership support.

"I never saw them more proud of anything than when they saw a Porter Scholar," said Sharon Porter Robinson, one of the couple's daughters.

"Our parents believed in the power of knowledge and could be counted on to cheer the courageous learner. This college of education is among the most distinctive in the nation," she said.

"The honor of naming this building in our parents' memory gives meaning and context to what you do here," Robinson continued, noting that the university was the "focus of great love" from both of her parents.

"Without education there is no future and without Mr. Porter's dream my future would not be as promising," said Marcus Blakeney, a senior education major and Porter Scholar. "I'm honored to be a Porter Scholar and education major."

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