James Porterfield, GSB finance professor and market expert, dead at 89
After serving in World War II on a Navy destroyer named for his father, Porterfield turned to a career in business. His humor, wit and knowledge shaped him to be a "master teacher."
James T. S. Porterfield, a Stanford finance professor known for his humor and sharp wit as well as his grasp of markets and financial issues, died Feb. 28 at Stanford Medical Center of pneumonia. He was 89.
Described by Stanford Graduate School of Business Dean Emeritus Arjay Miller as "a master teacher," Porterfield taught legions of executives, directed the school's Sloan Master's Program and won teaching awards for his classes for MBA students.
In 1995 when the Stanford University Alumni Association presented him with a lifetime service award, the citation read: "For his consummate and courtly four-decade deanship of executive training and aspiring business people; for vitality, humor, and pertinence (along with the appropriate ration of sports trivia) he injects in always challenging and occasionally arid course material; … and for setting a stunning example that institutional citizenship should rank high alongside professional achievement in one's field."
James Temple Starke Porterfield was born July 7, 1920, in Annapolis, Md., the son of Lewis Broughton Porterfield and Maude Starke Porterfield. Porterfield's father was a U.S. Navy rear admiral. Porterfield spent part of his childhood living on Yerba Buena Island in the San Francisco Bay, taking a boat to the mainland for school. He earned his undergraduate degree at the University of California-Berkeley and MBA and Ph.D. degrees from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
During World War II, Porterfield served as a lieutenant on the USS Salt Lake City during the Battle of the Komandorski Islands, the longest sustained sea battle of the war. He then served on the destroyer USS Porterfield (named for his father) during the Battle of Okinawa, for which he received the Bronze Star.
After earning his graduate degrees, Porterfield worked at Wells Fargo Bank, Anglo-California National Bank, IBM Corp. and Ford Motor Co. before beginning his academic career teaching business at the University of Washington.
He taught for four years at Harvard Business School and at IMEDE in Switzerland before being recruited to the Stanford Graduate School of Business in 1959 by then-Dean Ernie Arbuckle, who was building the school into an intellectual powerhouse.
Porterfield was the James Irvin Miller Professor of Finance, Emeritus, at the time of his death.
He was the author of books and articles on financial management including Investment Decisions and Capital Costs and Case Problems in Finance.
During a lengthy interview with the Stanford News Service in 1980, Porterfield reflected on the U.S. economy – decrying inflation that was eating into both individual and corporate finances – and on the value of business education at Stanford.
"The essence of graduate education in business should lie not in the transmission of information and techniques but rather in the development of judgment, the ability to analyze problems and skill at making decisions on the basis of incomplete data," he said.
Porterfield was an active tennis player throughout his life. He began weightlifting in his teens, an activity he continued until this year, as a regular at the YMCA. He was also an avid football fan.
Porterfield married Betty Gold in 1949. She died in 1985. He married Patricia Gardiner Roggeveen of Palo Alto in 1986. She survives him. He is also survived by stepchildren Philip Roggeveen, Dirk Roggeveen and Mijke Roggeveen; five grandchildren; a niece, Linda Bergquist Guy, and nephew, Brig. Gen. Kenneth Bergquist (U.S. Army Reserve). His siblings, brother Paul Porterfield and sister Alice Porterfield Bergquist, predeceased him.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, March 6, at 2 p.m. at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, 330 Ravenswood Ave., Menlo Park.
Cathy Castillo is director of publications and web content at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.