Before Curtiss Porter, PhD, arrived as Chancellor of (what was then called) Penn State McKeesport in 1999, it offered only 2-year degree programs—which students seeking a four-year degree had to finish at the main campus in University Park, Pa.

Within a year, he had implemented a four-year degree program in Information Sciences Technology. The campus now offers seven four-year degrees; adding programs in Psychology, English and four business degrees.

Now, after 14 years as chancellor, Curtiss is retiring, leaving behind an impressive record of not only academic enhancement, but also physical improvements to the campus and a name change, to Penn State Greater Allegheny.

“The four-year programs and the new facilities are what I’m proudest of,” he said.  “We built a $5 million Student Community Center and refurbished several other buildings, we rebuilt all our classrooms and have wireless Internet across the campus. The campus has a glistening new look and gives a new identity to the community. Our name change shows the world we are a much larger entity.”

That global identity is more than a boast. During his tenure, Penn State Allegheny has established educational relationships with universities in Chile, India and Vietnam.

“We have a relationship with a consortium of universities in Chile, and they are working to establish English as their second, international language,” said Porter. “The same with Vietnam, they want an English language perspective in relation to business, architecture, and leisure and tourism.”

As for regrets, Porter said he would like to have brought more four-year programs online, but at least two more, one in bio-behavioral studies and one in administration of justice, will be offered in the Fall of 2014.  He would also like to see more engineering programs, especially related to the energy industry come on line.

“The engineering will come I’m sure, but that’s for the next Chancellor,” he said. “We do need a new library building too, but again, that’s for someone else.”

Porter, who grew up not far from the campus in Braddock, began his academic career with stunts at the University of Pittsburgh and California State University in Long Beach, Calif.  He left academia for 15 years and served as director of the Urban League of Southwestern Connecticut.

He took another Urban League post in New York City before returning to Connecticut and the academic life as the interim director of the University of Connecticut’s Stamford campus. He then took the position at Penn State, which he said is the highlight of his life, so far.

“To lead an academic institution was something I always wanted to do, so it’s the pinnacle of a particular dream,” he said. “Of course for every dream pursued there are those you don’t get to do.  I think some of those I can still go after, artistic endeavors—writing in particular. I think that’s something an old man can still do.”

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