Around the Institute

Dan Porterfield Brings a Career of Higher Education to Aspen Institute

June 23, 2018  • Rick Carroll, The Aspen Times

Dan Porterfield left an executive job in higher education for the Aspen Institute, yet the think tank’s newly minted CEO and president likens the transition to being a freshman in college.

The 56-year-old was president of Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for seven years, accepting the job in November as the Institute’s next leader. He claimed the nonprofit’s reins June 1, just weeks before the Institutes’s marquee event in Aspen — the Ideas Festival — returns for another edition.

“My learning curve is very, very steep,” he said earlier this week during an interview at The Aspen Times office. “I have a lot to learn. It’s just like someone wanting to go college … so I plan to be a very, very dedicated student during the Ideas Fest, going to lots of discussions and panels.”

The Ideas Fest, which kicked off Thursday with its Spotlight Health series, was founded in 2005, the brainchild of noted author, historian and journalist Walter Isaacson. The Institute’s CEO and president since 2003, Isaacson left the Washington, D.C.-based organization — which originated in Aspen in 1949 — to return to his hometown of New Orleans to join the Tulane University faculty

As heralded as Isaacson is in the media world, Porterfield’s accolades come chiefly in the arena of academia and his mission to unearth the potential of America’s youth who have been bypassed by colleges and universities.

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