David T. Porter, 85, of Amherst, professor emeritus of English and a leading scholar of Emily Dickinson, died Nov. 16 after cardiac arrest following a brief stay at Cooley Dickinson Hospital.
Born in Buffalo, he earned a B.A. at Hamilton College in 1950 before accepting the post of head of the English department in the lycee at Robert College in Istanbul, where he taught from 1953-55 before serving two years with U.S. Army. He returned to Robert College in 1957 and continued teaching until 1959.
He joined the English department in 1962 as an instructor. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Rochester the following year. He taught for 33 years until his retirement in 1995.
For decades Porter was closely involved with the Dickinson Homestead, and he organized the first Emily Dickinson International Symposium in 1980, leading to the establishment of the Emily Dickinson International Society. He also organized the 1986 Centennial Celebration of Dickinson and delivered the keynote speech at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.
He published three highly regarded scholarly works, “The Art of Emily Dickinson’s Early Poetry” (1966), “Emerson and Literary Change” (1978) and “Dickinson: The Modern Idiom” (1981), all published by Harvard University Press.
He was twice awarded Fulbright lectureships, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a residency as senior research fellow at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and was a resident scholar at the Rockefeller Research Institute in Bellagio, Italy. During his career, Porter taught at the University of Catania in Sicily and Keele University and the University of Kent, both in England.
He received the Faculty Fellowship in 1986 and an honorary doctorate from Hamilton College, his alma mater, where he delivered the 1992 commencement address.
He leaves his wife of 56 years, Rosalie Pedalino Porter, sons Thomas, David and Stephen and their partners, five grandchildren and a sister.
A memorial service is planned for Saturday, Dec. 7 at 4 p.m., at the South Congregational Church in South Amherst.
Memorial donations may be made to the Emily Dickinson Museum, 280 Main St., Amherst 01002.