September 23, 2011
'Wildcat' out west honors his family of K-Staters
Manhattan, Kan., 1933. Clare Porter of Stafford, Kan., and six other pledges from the Farmhouse fraternity plan the traditional pledge sneak, where the fresh-faced young men slip away from their duties as uninitiated recruits and escape out of town for an evening. After swiping and copying five sets of car keys belonging to active members, they raced off to Topeka in the borrowed vehicles with their dates for a memorable night of dinner and dancing at an open-air theatre.
On the way, they spot a car full of active members heading west back to Manhattan from a cattle judging competition in Iowa. Unsure if their cover is blown, the young men cautiously continue their journey, arrive in Topeka, and plunge into an exciting evening of entertainment.
Later that evening, swelling with pride and believing their stealth has outwitted their older counterparts, the pledges and their dates leave the theater to commence their return trip to Manhattan — only to find that four of the five cars had been repossessed by active members of Farmhouse. The fifth, a two-seater Chevrolet, is all that remains.
Challenged, but not beaten, the 14 co-eds somehow pack into the vehicle and return home with a tale to be told for generations.
This is one of many accounts of Porter's life at K-State in the early 1930s, an era during which a student could find work feeding chickens, guinea pigs and rabbits for 25 cents an hour, rent a room for $5 a month, and for $20 more, have two meals a day included.
Porter eventually served as president of Farmhouse for two years, was on the K-State Student Council and played clarinet in the K-State Marching Band. He also traveled as a member of the department of animal sciences' livestock judging teams. In those circles he was known as "Tall Coke Porter," a nickname assigned to him by his peers after he opted for a soda in place of a beer during a post-victory celebration, fearing that he'd be disowned if his mother heard he engaged in such deviant behavior.
In 1934, a year after he began college, Porter experienced two events that he would later recall as some of his fondest memories of his time at K-State. The first was taking the train from Manhattan to Lincoln, Neb., to watch the Wildcats take on the Cornhuskers in subzero temperatures — and being one of the few band members who didn't abandon his musical duties at halftime for the warmth of the train depot. The second was a date with Georgiana Avery, a young woman from Coldwater, Kan., who would become his wife five years later.
Porter graduated in 1937 from the K-State College of Agriculture, and Avery in 1938 from the College of Human Ecology. They were married a year later. Porter started his career in the agricultural industry, working as a county agent for Reno and Stevens counties in Kansas, and Mrs. Porter taught a high school home economics course. Shortly thereafter, Porter began working in the K-State department of agronomy, a position he held until 1947 when he was hired by the University of Nebraska. By the time they relocated their family to Lincoln, the Porters had two children: Alan, born in 1942, and Martha, born in 1945.
After working at the University of Nebraska for just over 10 years, Porter left to manage a seed marketing organization that eventually became NC+ Hybrid Seed Company, an operation he ran until he retired in 1980. But even as they built a life outside of their home state, the Porters never forgot their roots in Kansas. They continued to visit family in the area, remained active with Farmhouse, and attended football games, class reunions and other alumni events. To them, being K-Staters was something to be proud of — for life.
Porter's time at K-State provided him with some of the greatest memories of his life and equipped him with the tools he needed to succeed. And now his son Alan has honored his mother and father — and the generations of K-Staters in their families — with a $1 million bequest to establish the Porter and Avery Family Agriculture Scholarship.
Alan Porter holds degrees from the University of Nebraska and the University of Denver, but fondly recalls visiting family in Manhattan and his parents' love for their alma mater.
"My parents loved K-State and everything it did for them. They never stopped being a part of the university's community," Alan Porter said.
"K-State is important to me because of my deep family ties there. I hope that this scholarship provides students with the same opportunities that K-State gave to my family."