Students arrived on the University of La Verne campus Monday toting backpacks and hot coffee, some still sleepy-eyed from months of summer relaxation and others raring to go for the first day of t...
This summer, La Verne alumna Deana Porterfield, Ed.D. ’13 will assume the presidency of Roberts Wesleyan College and Northeastern Seminary in Rochester New York.
“I think you are going to be the president of a college some day.”
As a student in the University of La Verne’s Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership program, those were flattering words to Deana Porterfield. Little did she know back then that only a year after earning her Ed.D. she would be moving across the country to fulfill Professor Dr. Laura Hyatt’s foresight.
On July 1, 2014, Porterfield will begin her tenure as the 11th president of Roberts Wesleyan College and the third president of the Northeastern Seminary in Rochester New York.
“I am humbled. I am honored. I am proud,” said Porterfield, reflecting on the new chapter in her life.
When a search firm approached her in the summer of 2013 about the opportunity, Porterfield was a little overwhelmed. It was a busy time, as she was working to complete her final practicum to earn her doctorate. But after discussing it with her husband and spending some time to reflect and pray on it, she decided to throw her hat in the ring.
By the end of 2013, the hiring committee had come to a consensus that Porterfield’s capacity to lead students and advance Christian higher education made her the best candidate, and they officially named her president-elect.
“Dr. Porterfield is a courageous leader who has the commitment and capability to advance the missions of both Roberts Wesleyan College and Northeastern Seminary,” said Dr. Terry Taber, chair of the Roberts and Northeastern board of trustees
“I feel called to Roberts Wesleyan because we believe in the same thing: developing students of character and providing a relevant, accessible education to students that will lead them to success,” Porterfield said.
As a first-generation college student, educational access has always played a significant role in Porterfield’s academic and professional journey.
Her mother graduated from high school and ran a beauty business out of the family home, and her father never made it past the 10th grade. It was never expected that anyone in the immediate family would go to college.
“College was not part of our family makeup or understanding,” Porterfield said.
So when Porterfield moved from Northern California to Southern California to pursue a bachelor’s degree in music at Azusa Pacific University during the late ’80s, it was a big deal.
Her original plan was to become a music teacher. After graduation, however, an opportunity arose for her to pursue college counseling. She found it very rewarding to work closely with students and help shape their college careers. From that point forward, it was an uphill trajectory in higher education leadership.
Porterfield went on to complete her master’s degree in organizational management at her alma mater and quickly worked her way up the ladder.
She served a combined 26 years at APU and APOU in a variety of capacities, including vice president for enrollment management, chief of staff senior vice president for people and organizational development, executive vice president and most recently as the executive vice president of APOU.
But it was not until she started the Ed.D. program at La Verne that she realized her full potential.
“When I looked into the program, I felt it really resonated with my experience as a leader and with what I wanted to learn,” Porterfield said.
She began the program in 2010 and committed herself to completing it in three years.
“It was a transformational experience and literally life changing,” she said. “It gave me not just theoretical concepts but practical application.”
Porterfield has chased opportunities her whole life and worked tirelessly to get where she is today in higher education, yet does not claim credit for all her success. She believes good things come when the timing is right and when you have faith.
“I knew that if God was going to call me to a presidency some day that I would have to be willing to step out in faith to do this,” she said.
This summer will be one of transition for Porterfield and her family. As she prepares to relocate with her husband, one daughter is graduating from high school while another is graduating from college.
With plenty of change ahead for Porterfield, she is ready and excited for what the future has in store.