A memorial service will be held at 3:30 p.m. on May 28 at Memorial Church for Anna Marie Zarate Porras, who oversaw efforts to diversify Stanford’s undergraduate population and later led fundraising and volunteer engagement efforts for the university.

Anna Marie Zarate Porras / Cindy Pearson

Anna Marie Zarate Porras (Image credit: Cindy Pearson)

Following the service, a reception will be held at the Henry and Monique Brandon Family Community Room in the Black Community Services Center, located at 418 Santa Teresa Street.

Porras, a Stanford alumna, died Jan. 21 of metastatic breast cancer at her home in Redwood City, Calif. She was 48.

Earlier in January, Stanford awarded Porras the inaugural Office of Development Distinguished Service Award.

On Jan. 31, services were held at Holy Family Catholic Church in Visalia, Calif., where Porras was born.

Porras earned bachelor’s degrees in economics and in sociology at Stanford in 1989, and a master’s degree in sociology that same year.

She joined Stanford’s staff in 1991, when the Office of Undergraduate Admission hired her to lead outreach efforts to Mexican American/Chicano students. Later, she was promoted to associate dean and director of admission. In that post, she managed the freshman admission process and oversaw diversity and outreach efforts.

She served as acting dean of admission for the 2004-2005 academic year and was responsible for admitting the Class of 2009.

Later in 2005, Porras joined the Office of Development as associate director of major gifts, and led fundraising and volunteer engagement efforts in Southern California before being promoted to senior associate director of development.

Victor Arias, a trustee emeritus of Stanford and a longtime friend, said Porras exuded credibility and trust, and treated everyone, no matter what their station in life, with respect. She also was known for her incredible charm.

“She was a top performer who could execute tasks and get things done, yet she had this charm that could automatically disarm you, and before you knew it, you were doing exactly what she wanted you to do,” he said.

Arias said Stanford changed Porras’ life. She grew up in modest circumstances in Visalia – an agricultural city located in the San Joaquin Valley – and blossomed at the university, he said. Later, in the admission office, she would change the lives of countless other students admitted to Stanford.

Arias said Porras also acted like a “second mom” to some students, serving as an informal adviser – a role she initiated with great pride, because she could see a part of herself in those students.

“She changed a lot of lives,” Arias said. “I miss her a lot, but she will never be forgotten. What she gave to Stanford will continue to grow.”

Martin Shell, vice president of the Office of Development, said he first met Porras when she was director of freshman admission, and felt very fortunate she was interested in a career in development on the heels of her distinguished career in the admission office.

“Anna Marie Porras was an exceptional human being and her passing leaves a huge vacuum in the entire Stanford community,” Shell said.

“Her story is a great example of what the university strives to do: attract smart, talented, deserving individuals and provide them with an environment in which they can thrive. She represented the first generation in her family to attend college and found her way to the Farm. She fell in love with Stanford and it with her, and she never really left.”

Whether she was working with prospective students as an admissions officer, or with alumni and future donors, Porras had “the ability to connect with people from a variety of backgrounds on a very human level, inspiring them, engaging them in the university and making them part of the Stanford family,” Shell said.

“We are deeply grieved by her death, but the spirit she embodied is carried forward in our own work in the Office of Development,” he said.

Porras is survived by her husband, Hector Porras of Redwood City, who also is a Stanford alum; sons Antonio and Manuel Porras, also of Redwood City; mother Vera Zarate of Visalia; brothers Daniel Zarate of Oxnard, Calif., David Zarate of Visalia and Michael Zarate of El Paso, Texas; and sister Debbie Singleton of Copperopolis, Calif.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Porras’ memory may be made to the Stanford Fund for Undergraduate Education or to the Breast Cancer Research Fund at the Stanford School of Medicine. Gifts should be made payable to Stanford University, and can be mailed to the attention of Ceci Evangelista at the following address: Office of the Vice President, Frances C. Arrillaga Alumni Center, 326 Galvez Street, Stanford, CA, 94305.