Lasting Impact on Reed

After 26 years of leadership, Hugh Porter departs.

By Katie Pelletier ’03 | March 12, 2024

When he arrived at Reed, Hugh Porter noticed that when asked what was distinctive about Reed, alumni sometimes pointed first to the social culture.

This was not the way he saw it.

“What really is distinctive about Reed is the way the academic program is arranged: with dedicated faculty and a curriculum that is a steep climb rather than a downward slope of intensity,” he says. He wanted alumni to more deeply appreciate Reed’s intellectual impact, and to celebrate and support the college’s remarkable academic strengths.

Porter, now Vice President for College Relations and Planning, has spent 26 years dedicated to finding innovative ways to further Reed’s mission and secure its longevity. His success has led to numerous advancements in the breadth and depth of Reed’s  academic program, substantial increases in student financial aid, and critical funding for changes to the built environment. He also planned and spearheaded the largest fundraising effort in Reed’s history, which concluded in 2012 with more than $203 million raised.

“Hugh has had the incredible capacity to dive in, care, and support out-of-the box solutions,” says Trustee Jane Buchan. “He is a true Reedie in terms of dealing with the ‘what’ and looking behind issues for productive solutions.”

In addition to being responsible for the college’s fundraising, Porter oversees advancement, alumni relations and volunteer engagement, communications and public affairs, conference and events planning, institutional research, and the Center for Life Beyond Reed.

From 2018 to 2019, he served as interim president and helped recruit a new president. In this role he was especially buoyed by interactions with students, who are—as he frequently reminds colleagues—“the reason we’re here.” When a group of students organized a Renn Fayre softball team called Hughes on First, he naturally joined in. Due to the no-strike limit, he was able to engage in long conversations with students on the field—often while waiting at first base, of course.

In 2019, Porter took over the responsibility of institutional planning, and during the pandemic, served as cochair of the COVID-19 Risk Assessment Group, working tirelessly to ensure the safety of all on campus.

Porter holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in music history from Yale University. He is an accomplished cellist, and, in his post-Reed life, plans to apply his skills to collaboration and challenges of a different sort, like ensemble music performance—which is a very Reed thing to do. 

Tags: Institutional