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With family doubly proud, father and son commence into Class of 2013 history

New graduates Joseph Michael Porter '13, left, and his father, Joe Porter Jr., MPS '13. Dad Joe Porter is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha (founded at Cornell in 1906, it was the first African-American fraternity in the nation), and he said Cornell's history of being inclusive was part of the reason he encouraged Joseph to apply to Cornell. Photo provided by Sherri Porter.

In a historical rarity for Cornell University, a father and son walked together in the May 26 Commencement ceremony -- both men were receiving degrees on the same day.

Joseph Michael Porter '13 graduated from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences with a bachelor's degree and a concentration in information science; his father, Joe Porter Jr., received his Master of Professional Studies degree from the ILR School through their MPS Program in New York City, a part-time, two-year program for practitioners with work experience. Both Porters live in the Poughkeepsie, N.Y., area.

Joe (the father) has degrees from Binghamton University (B.A. '84, MBA '87), the University of Pennsylvania (MSE '03) and is a senior consulting manager for IBM.

"Once my son was accepted at Cornell and was attending, I kind of got the bright idea that, wouldn't it be nice if I could graduate with my son?" he says. "I figured I could pick up another degree and work for IBM as part of the management team." Joe Porter explains that at IBM, "there's no saturation point in education," a quote -- and philosophy -- attributed to founder Thomas J. Watson Sr.

Porter family in Cornell shirts

The family decked out in Cornell attire. Clockwise from top left: Joseph Michael Porter, brother Eric Porter, mom Sherri Porter and dad Joe Porter Jr. Photo provided by Sherri Porter.

In keeping with that spirit, two years after his son entered Cornell, Joe Porter enrolled in ILR's MPS-NYC program, which includes two summer sessions at the Ithaca campus. "I got a lot out of the program; it helps me as a people manager," he says.

About a dozen family members traveled to Cornell to watch both Porters graduate. Graduation weekend in Ithaca "was very exciting for me," Joe Porter says. "I was very proud of my son. It was his day, and I didn't want to take away from his moment -- it was his day to shine."

Joseph Porter remembers looking for his dad as everyone assembled on the Arts Quad. "It was fun for my friends; they were excited about us both graduating. It really added to the moment," he says.

This summer, Joseph Porter is job hunting. His degree is in information science and he has worked for the past two summers as a computer programmer in an autism and genetics program at Harvard Medical School.

Cornell Archivist Elaine Engst explains that a father-son pair receiving Cornell degrees together is a rare occurrence, saying, "While there are many, many examples of multi-generation Cornell families, it is extremely unusual to have a parent and child receiving degrees on the same day!"

Editor's note: There have been at least four other parent-child pairs in recent Cornell history who received degrees on the same day and/or walked in the same Commencement procession:

  • Thomas Clougherty '63, A.B. '99, and Jill Clougherty '99 in 1999
  • Josh Owen '93, B.Arch. '94, and Susan Owen '93 in 1993
  • Van C. Travis Jr. '60, Ph.D. '90, and Van C. Travis III '90 in 1990
  • Howard Cogan '50, M.P.S. '80, and Michael Cogan '80 in 1980

Related links:

ILR School's MPS Program in NYC

Joe Porter Jr. in an ILR School "Becoming a Better Manager" video

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