Legacy of William A. Porter lives on through Porter Scholars Program

(12-01-2016)

Adams State University's 2016 Porter Scholars remembered benefactor William A. Porter at their annual dinner in October. Dubbed "the forefather of online trading" by CNN, Porter was born November 10, 1928, in Boulder, Colo., and passed away October 14, 2015, in Kauai, Hawaii, where he lived in his later years. Porter earned a degree in mathematics from Adams State in 1951.

He and his wife, Joan, established the Porter Scholars Program in 2007 through the largest gift in Adams State history: $5.8 million worth of stock in E*TRADE, which he founded in 1983. Porter went on to launch the International Securities Exchange.

William and Joan Porter, creators of the Porter Scholars Program for science and mathematics majors.

The Porters' goal in creating the program was to "support students who are majoring in either mathematics or science on the basis of their need and their ongoing academic achievement." To date, the program has awarded $816,145 to a total of 134 students, many of whom earn the award for multiple years. Porter Scholars alumni have fulfilled that potential through acceptances to medical and professional school.

The Porter Scholars program includes 26 current Adams State students. Clifton Simmons, a physical geography major from Davenport, Iowa, said, "This scholarship has been the most important part of my school experience. It has allowed me to fully commit myself to my studies." Cellular and molecular biology major Julie Starkey, from Fountain, Colo., said, "The program allows me to meet kind, brilliant individuals who form such a passionate community."

The late William Porter (center) with former Adams State presidents Dr. William Fulkerson and Dr. J. Thomas Gilmore at the dedication of Porter Hall.

In addition to financial assistance, the Porter Scholars Program supports the students' pursuit of focused academic programs off campus, independent study, and research on advanced topics. These have included national and international research opportunities, attendance at professional conferences, and study travel to Africa, Australia, Belize, Costa Rica, and Peru. Another unique aspect of the program is the First-Year Experience, multidisciplinary excursions that focus on scientific topics such as "Mammoths, Mathematics and Climate Change."

"There is no way in the world Adams State could offer this program without a private donation. The Porters' gift gives our students opportunities they wouldn't have otherwise," said Dr. Matt Nehring, professor of physics.

ASU's science and mathematics facility was named for Porter in 1998 at a dedication ceremony on campus. Holding back tears, Porter traced the roots of his success back to his alma mater. "I developed my technological grounding largely through the inspiration of Dr. James Craft, head of the Science Department when I attended Adams State. He was truly a great man. Because of him and others who influenced me, I have gained considerable success in business, and I want to share my success with today's students at Adams State," he said.

Porter's humility belied the dedication and hard work ethic he evinced since early in life. Porter entered the U.S. Navy at 16, but was later discharged for being underage. As a youth, he worked as a ranch cowboy during summers; during college, he worked the night shift as crew dispatcher for the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. He also felt privileged to know university founder Billy Adams, whom he and other students would visit and read to toward the end of his life.

With a B.S. in mathematics from Adams State, Porter furthered his education at Kansas State University, where he earned an M.S. in physics, and at the MIT Sloan School of Management, where he earned an M.B.A. as part of the Sloan Fellows program.

Adams State has recognized Porter's achievements and generosity through the 2007 Willis Fassett Jr. Award, the 2005 Billy Adams Award, and the 1991 Alumni Achievement Award. He gave Adams State's commencement address in spring of 2000 and was presented an Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy.

By Julie Waechter