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In Memory

Porter Stevens Woods

July 27, 2011

Porter Stevens Woods died July 22, in Fort Collins after a full life of 80 years.

He was born Jan. 21, 1931, in Portland, Ore., to Mabel Electra Porter and John Burton Woods. Music, an early and lifelong passion, was as important as bread and water to his life. He was a teacher, playwright, director and musician.

His father was a forester and lobbyist for the lumber industry with the family frequently moving between the Pacific Northwest and Washington, D.C. Porter attended 15 different grade schools. He was a member of the National Cathedral Choir and graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington D.C in 1948. In 1952, he received his Bachelor of Arts from Brown University, where he was a member and soloist with the University Glee Club and a founding member of the Jabberwocks. While at Brown, he also met his future wife, Gail Erickson, of Edgewood, Rhode Island.

While Gail completed college, he taught at the Cambridge School in Weston, Mass. They married on June 12th, 1954. The summer of their wedding, he and Gail moved cross-country to Salem, Ore., where Porter explored careers and worked on his Master of Arts in English Literature at the University of Oregon. During these years and subsequently he continued to sing, often joining in with choirs of various faiths.

After qualifying as a public school teacher, Porter was hired as an English teacher at Grant High School (Portland, Ore.), where he directed the high school's musical, The Desert Song. Theatre gave him a way to engage all his students, not only the collegebound.

There, he wrote his first play, The Dowery Contest. To his and everyone's delight, this play and its actors took "best of show" at the local competition, although they had all gone home and so missed the awards ceremony.

Porter continued his involvement in theatre at the University of Portland, writing an original masque, Fire in Middle Earth, based on the Sappho and Phaon legend. He was bitten by the theatre bug. On a friend's advice he applied to Yale University (School of Drama) which accepted him to work on a Doctorate in Fine Arts, playwriting and directing. In 1961, the couple left for Yale, with son, Timothy, and daughter, Katherine, in the back of a VW bug. (It was tight.) Having no car radio, they sang the entire way to the east coast. This family tradition, which Porter and Gail began on their honeymoon, continued throughout the years.

Yale proved a marvelous four years. While in New Haven, their third child, Constance, was born. During Porter's time there, he was the baritone in the professional quartet at the New Haven Chapel on the Green. Porter completed his dissertation in rapid time. It was titled: "The Negro on Broadway, The Transition Years, 1920-1930." His training opened doors-first at Middlebury College, where he taught English and directed plays, and next at Grinnell College in Iowa, where he headed the theatre department.

In 1970, Porter began his work in the theatre department at Colorado State University. He remained in Fort Collins for the rest of his career, until he retired in 1998. During his tenure, Porter directed many of the great works of the theatre including Macbeth, West Side Story and Equus. He worked with the CSU Opera and directed The Ballad of Baby Doe, an award-winning La Traviata, and had several of his own plays produced including Blodgett and Night Nurse.

He also guided many students enabling them to achieve their hopes. Academe was his fulfillment, and the 28 years of work and collaboration at CSU with Robert Braddy and Morris Burns were extremely rewarding. Together, they nurtured and enriched theatre in Fort Collins for keeps.

Besides teaching and directing at CSU, Porter did research, and wrote two books - "Experiencing Theatre" and "The Teacher as Actor," which was coauthored with Morris Burns - taught on the semester at sea, and was awarded a Fulbright grant to teach English and theatre at Taiwan National University (Taida) for a year. He returned to teach in Taiwan for several additional semesters.

Throughout his life in Fort Collins, Porter was active with the Fort Collins International Center, the CSU International Student Program, church, local schools and art groups.

He loved family discussions over dinner, long walks on bike paths with the labradors, sailing, and travel with Gail.

Porter is survived by his wife of 57 years, Gail Erickson Woods, and three children: Timothy (Amy (Lukens) Woods) of Aberdeen, SD; Katherine (Christopher Koziol) of Fort Collins, and Constance (Wakin Chau) of Taipei, Taiwan; two granddaughters and four grandsons. He has left many dear friends the world over. He was preceded in death by his parents and his siblings: John, Esther Perry and Willis.

A memorial service will be at 2 p.m. on August 17 at Plymouth Congregational Church in Fort Collins. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Porter S. Woods Theatre Scholarship Fund and sent to the College of Liberal Arts, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1701 or to a charity of your choice.

Contact: Dell Rae Moellenberg
Phone: (970) 491-6009