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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

Danny D. Porter

By Timothy Carlson

DANNY PORTER once worked for The Crimson and now, just over a year from his graduation from Harvard, he is dead. The violence of his death merely adds to the unreality of putting a period at the end of an already successful life which had just begun. When the reporter from The Globe called Saturday asking if we knew anything about "Dan" Porter, the question didn't immediately ring a bell because Dan wasn't the name he went by around here, it sounded a little impersonal on him.

Danny was photography co-chairman in the fall of 1971 and he graduated magna cum laude in Government the following spring. In 1971, he helped found Cambridge Survey Research, Inc. with John Gorman, a fellow member of Dunster House. For the 1972 Presidential campaign, Porter and Gorman teamed up with Pat Caddell and became the most influential issues consultants in the McGovern campaign.

By the time of the Miami convention, Porter and Cambridge Survey Research were, in the words of Time Magazine, "the youngest--and just possibly the hottest" election consultants. They advised McGovern on what issues he should make his biggest plays, on what grounds he should appeal to the voters. Danny had seen The Candidate and had gotten a kick out of it. He recognized a little bit of himself in that caricature of modern electoral methods, but he told me politics was not empty when "you know you're working for the best man."

In Miami, Porter ran into a former associate on The Crimson, photographer Peter Southwick, and bewailed the fact that although now he could afford three Nikons, which hung around his neck at the time, he had not had the time to take a single picture. Southwick remembers Danny wearing a coat and pants which looked baggy--he had lost a lot of weight during the primaries. Danny told Southwick that the incredible success had surprised him a little. Later on in the campaign, Danny told me that Watergate was the only chance McGovern had to recover completely from the Eagleton affair, but he did say that in certain key areas McGovern was gaining at a rate which bore watching and hoping. At the time, Watergate didn't convince me as a redeeming issue, but Porter insisted that if enough came out, it could work.

* * *

SINCE THE campaign, I only saw Danny a few times. He had been living in Concord and sometimes rode his very light racing bike around Cambridge and parked it at The Crimson. I saw him two weeks ago Sunday at a home made ice cream stand just down Argilla Road from Crane's Beach in Ipswich. The ice cream was OK, but there were a lot of flies and greenheads zipping in and out of the screen window where they took your money and gave you your cone. I hadn't seen him for six months, but he and his girlfriend, Susan Petz, were looking good. Like me, they were both a little red. He told me he had made a lot of money during the campaign and nothing so far in '73, but he and his partners would be back in high gear this fall, advising "four or five" senatorial campaigns. Wow, I thought, this guy's already doing serious work, he seems to have cast a longer shadow than almost any other recent graduate I knew. Before I had worried whether or not he would slip and just become another Harvard political instrument who might forget the lessons of Bundy and Kissinger somewhere up the road, but at that moment all considerations of that sort were absent from my mind.

Danny had paid with lost weight for the work he had done on the McGovern campaign, but he looked better lean, and I noticed he had regained most of it by July. Now he could afford a new small foreign car which had its own elegance on that sunny summer afternoon parked under a tree by the marshes and he, with his blond mustache and clear eyes, and his girlfriend, with her blond hair and shy, nice smile; both of them looked like they had driven out of the movies. And I envied them a little, because everything seemed perfect. He said they were going to go camping the next weekend, and the coming month would probably be the last bit of ease he would have for a while, before he started back to serious, nonstop, on the road work again.

* * *

I remember one late night we spent talking about how he almost married his high school sweetheart (not Susan, whom he met last fall) and that she was the only girl he had ever dated up to that point. At the time, he felt he was "naive." Danny said only a thread of indecision stopped him from going through with it, but it had been better for both of them.

* * *

When Danny was competing for the photography board he pasted in assignments 2,3, and 4 in the candidates book all at once. It was a blitz of work which caught the editors a little off guard. His first assignment had included some lovely shots of a girl playing cello, but the contrast was a little high. In the middle of his new assignments, he shot some pictures with a 24mm lens he had just bought, which seemed to some editors, including myself, to be the best thing about them. The lens. The pictures took a lot of flak. After the results were in, one of his subjects scrawled in large letters with a light blue marking pen a defense of the pics:

WE LOVE DANNY

AND HE LOVES US AND

THAT'S WHAT THESE

PRINTS ARE ALL ABOUT!

and in regard to the use of the 24mm lens:

NO, HE WAS JUST REALLY

CLOSE (i.e. together with)THE

THINGS HE WAS SHOOTING (i.e. us)

The Crimson extends condolences to the family of Danny D. Porter '72, a former photographic chairman of The Crimson, who was killed while camping in the Adirondack State Forest on Saturday. He is survived by his stepfather and his mother, Mr. and Mrs. David E. Nauman, and his sister, Janny Nauman, of Mansfield, Ohio.

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