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College Mourns the Loss of Dunster Faculty Dean Ann Porter

Ann Porter (left), pictured here in Dunster in 2004, passed away peacefully on Wednesday morning following an illness.
Ann Porter (left), pictured here in Dunster in 2004, passed away peacefully on Wednesday morning following an illness. By Thea S. Morton
By Graham W. Bishai and Derek G. Xiao, Crimson Staff Writers

UPDATED: May 18, 2017, at 4:39 p.m.

Ann R. Porter, the Faculty Dean of Dunster House for the past 16 years, died peacefully Wednesday morning after her battle with breast cancer accelerated unexpectedly, her husband and Dunster Faculty Dean Roger B. Porter announced in a series of emails to Dunster House members.

She was in her sixties, and is survived by her husband, four children, and five grandchildren.

“Ann was a gentle and loving colleague and friend to generations of Dunster and Harvard College students,” Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana wrote in an email to College affiliates Wednesday evening. “Our thoughts, wishes, and tears are with Roger and Ann’s family and loved ones.”

Born Ann Robinson, Porter grew up in Wyoming. She met Roger at Brigham Young University in Utah, and spent the first days of her marriage at Oxford University in England. The pair also lived for several years in Washington D.C., working in politics—Ann in the Senate, Roger in several presidential administrations—prior to coming to Harvard.

She had battled breast cancer “on and off” for twenty years, Roger Porter wrote in a second email to Dunster affiliates Thursday afternoon.

“We had hoped and expected that she would be present when our youngest daughter is expected to deliver her first baby in September,” Roger Porter wrote. “We had more than four and a half decades together and that is something to savor and for which to feel supremely grateful.”

The Porters planned to step down from the head of Dunster House in June, the two announced in March. Roger Porter also said his departure from Dunster would coincide with a sabbatical leave from the University.

Around 60 students, faculty, tutors, and staff gathered Wednesday evening in the Dunster Junior Common Room to share grief and heartfelt memories of Ann Porter’s life. The event was led by Harvard Chaplain Lucy A. Forster-Smith.

Several attendees wrote letters to the Porter family on stationery provided at the gathering. Numerous friends remembered her as a very kind, warm, and poised person, who was known for giving “exceptional hugs.”

“She was an incredible member of the community. Ann was very well known for her hugs. She gave everyone hugs all the time. She was the kindest, most loving person, just so kind to everyone. Everyone who knew her loved her,” Christian P. Bennett ’15 said.

“She was sort of like a mom to everyone here. So, it’s hard,” Jennifer J. Hsiao, Dunster House’s interim resident dean, added.

Others spoke about her welcoming presence in Dunster House.

“She made it feel like home for students across all the years I’ve been here,” Rachel A. Barbarisi, the Dunster House administrator, said. “Students of all groups, and across all walks of life, would remark on that before they graduated.”

A funeral service will be held on Saturday at the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints meetinghouse in Belmont, Mass.

—Staff writer Derek G. Xiao can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @derekgxiao.

—Staff writer Derek G. Xiao can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @derekgxiao.

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