Daniel R. Porterfield is President and CEO of the Aspen Institute, a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. He has been recognized as a visionary strategist, transformational leader, devoted educator, and passionate advocate for justice and opportunity.
At the Aspen Institute, Porterfield has worked to build upon the organization’s legacy of societal influence and commitment to human dignity while positioning it for a future where it can make its most profound and lasting impacts.
In recent years, the Institute has launched new initiatives focused on criminal justice reform, science and society, economic inclusion, grassroots and community leadership, and more. In the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado, where the Institute was founded and where it maintains its Aspen Meadows campus, it has broadened its partnerships with the local community through the Hurst Community Initiative and deepened its connection with its aesthetic and cultural heritage through the creation of a $20 million educational facility and creativity corridor celebrating the works of Bauhaus master Herbert Bayer, one of the founders of the Aspen Institute.
To respond to one of the most urgent challenges of our time, the Institute created the Aspen Partnership for an Inclusive Economy (APIE) in 2019 with a founding partner, the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, and a $26 million multi-year commitment from Mastercard. Through APIE, the Institute is bringing together its networks and programs with a diverse range of public, private, and nonprofit leaders to help reconstruct our global economy so that it drives greater security, opportunity, and resilience for all.
Prior to leading the Aspen Institute, Porterfield served for seven years as the President of Franklin & Marshall College, a national liberal arts college founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1787. Under his leadership, Franklin & Marshall set records for applications, fundraising, and fellowships; developed cutting edge new centers for student wellness, career services, and faculty excellence; and constructed a new athletics stadium and visual arts center.
Porterfield led Franklin & Marshall in the development of the Next Generation Initiative talent strategy, through which the College strengthened its academic excellence and competitiveness by tripling its percentage of incoming low-income students and more than doubling its percentage of domestic students of color. For this work, Porterfield and Franklin & Marshall received national recognition and visibility, including high-profile coverage in The Washington Post and The New York Times, on the PBS NewsHour, and at several White House summits of educational leaders. The Next Generation Initiative also helped to galvanize the creation of a national project of the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program, the American Talent Initiative (ATI). Funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the ATI has a national goal of enrolling 50,000 more high-achieving low-income students in leading institutions by 2025.
Before assuming the presidency at Franklin & Marshall, Porterfield served as Senior Vice President for Strategic Development and as an award-winning professor of English at his alma mater, Georgetown University. In this role, he led Georgetown’s institutional positioning, strategy formation, communications, government relations, community relations, and intercollegiate athletics. He also spearheaded the University’s relationship with Washington, DC Public Schools and founded a number of Georgetown programs for immigrant children, DC students, and marginalized youth.
Prior to coming to Georgetown in 1997, Porterfield served for four years as communications director and chief speechwriter for the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Porterfield has received awards and recognitions from the KIPP Foundation, the “I Have A Dream” Foundation, the Posse Foundation, and the Kaplan Educational Foundation. He serves on the National Board of Directors of Teach For America and on the board of the Education Trust, and is a former trustee of the College Board. He was named a White House Champion of Change in 2016 and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2020 and to the Council on Foreign Relations in 2023. He is the author of a book about the growing value of college in today’s rapidly changing world, provisionally entitled, Kindling Fire: How College Activates Growth Mindsets, forthcoming from Johns Hopkins University Press.
Porterfield earned B.A. degrees from Georgetown and Oxford—where he was a Rhodes Scholar—and his Ph.D. from The City University of New York Graduate Center, where he was awarded a Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities and wrote his dissertation on the poetry of American prisoners. He has been awarded honorary degrees from Wake Forest University, Miami Dade College, Queens University of Charlotte, Elizabethtown College, and Mt. Aloysius College.
A native of the City of Baltimore, where he was raised by a single mother, Porterfield and his wife, attorney Karen A. Herrling, live in Virginia and have three children.