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The Philadelphia Inquirer

A Badge For Service To Alma Mater As One Of This Year's Yale Medal Winners, A Bala Cynwyd Man Is Among The Distinguished

By Wendy Walker

April 20, 2003
Copyright © 2003
The Philadelphia Inquirer. All rights reserved. 

Rafael Porrata-Doria Jr. was sure the selection committee had made a mistake when it chose him to receive this year's Yale Medal.

After all, previous winners have included Dean Acheson, secretary of state during the Truman years; Paul Mellon, the philanthropist who founded the world-class Yale Center for British Art; and Kingman Brewster, who served as president of Yale and U.S. ambassador to Great Britain.

"The list of winners impresses and shocks me," said Porrata-Doria, a 1972 graduate of Yale Law School and a Bala Cynwyd resident. "I thought, 'My God! I'm in this unbelievable company!' "

The award is given to five people yearly by the Association of Yale Alumni to honor outstanding service to the university, usually by an alumnus.

"There is one criterion for the award: volunteer service to Yale," said Jeff Brenzell, executive director of the group.

Porrata-Doria, a professor at Temple University's James E. Beasley School of Law, received the news about the award on a recent cold and rainy morning, and the phone call "considerably brightened up the day," he said.

On Friday, he will receive his award at a ceremony and a dinner reception at Yale, attended by roughly 1,000 alumni as well as former winners.

Porrata-Doria said he enjoyed his three years at Yale Law School but did not expect to become so involved in alumni events. He said he ran into a classmate recently and "we were shaking our heads. We never thought we'd be doing 'the Yale thing' to such a degree."

Brenzell said it was "somewhat unusual" for a graduate of a professional school such as the law school "to take such an interest in alumni affairs" as Porrata-Doria has.

As a law student, Porrata-Doria interviewed applicants and continued to do so after graduating. He was asked to serve on the board of theYale Club of Philadelphia and then became involved in the Association of Yale Alumni, holding various leadership positions.

The national organization is "not in the fund-raising business" - there's a separate group for that - "but in the friend-raising business," he said. It runs a community-service program in which Yale undergraduates work for nonprofit groups during the summer "as a way of helping the community and having Yalies understand the community," he said.

The organization also sponsors alumni programs "to try to bring educational excitement to folks outside New Haven," Porrata-Doria added. He said he took an online course about the change in administration in Hong Kong that included alumni in Hong Kong, China, Britain and the United States: "We were talking and reading about it as it was happening."

Porrata-Doria grew up in Puerto Rico, where he still has family, and came to Philadelphia in 1972 to attend the University of Pennsylvania. He joined the Temple faculty in 1983.

Spanish is his native language, but he learned English and French while still in school and took Italian in college. His fluency in Spanish helps in his professional work because one of his specialties is Latin American law. He also is chairman of the board of the Hispanic Association of Contractors and Enterprise, a community-development organization for the Hispanic community in North Philadelphia.

At Temple, Porrata-Doria teaches courses in corporate law, securities law, and private and public international law to second- and third-year law students. He also serves on the board of the Eagleville Foundation, a drug- and alcohol-rehabilitation program, and on the vestry of The Church of St. Asaph in Bala Cynwyd.

"There's a value that Yale at all levels passes on in terms of the importance and value of service," he said. "I didn't realize how much you absorb it."

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