Premed alum leaves a caring legacy

Robert Porter ’40 grew up in an era before managed health care, when doctors occasionally treated patients in exchange for things like eggs or pies. Witnessing that generosity later influenced his career and philanthropy. In December, Berkeley received a landmark bequest from Porter valued at more than $14 million — the single most generous estate gift to the university in a decade.

Photo of Robert circa mid-1960s in a coat and tie standing by a bookshelf

Robert Porter ’40

As a Berkeley undergraduate, Porter studied zoology and chemistry — the premed curriculum at the time. He earned an M.D. from UCSF, then treated World War II soldiers with brain injuries and psychological trauma at an army hospital in West Virginia. There he met Mary Kay Thornton, a Red Cross worker whom he later married.

After the war, Porter spent 60 years in New York as a child and adolescent psychiatrist and faculty member at Mount Sinai Hospital. Described as a dedicated practitioner and passionate mentor, he died in 2014 at age 95.

Ensuring his legacy would live on for future students, Porter designated his gift to the School of Public Health, Goldman School of Public Policy, and College of Natural Resources. Each unit has established an endowed fund in his name to provide sustained revenue for critical priorities.

“We are incredibly grateful for Dr. Porter’s prescient gifts,” says Goldman School Dean Henry E. Brady. “These lasting endowments have the potential to support exceptional students and to transform big ideas into tangible realities.”

While Porter’s generosity is an extraordinary example of an estate gift, planned gifts of all types and sizes make a difference at Berkeley. Learn more at

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