JSU Doctoral Candidate Reginald Porter Named Memphis Leader of the Year

Jackson, Miss. – Reginald Porter Jr., a doctoral candidate in the Executive Ph.D. Program in Urban Higher Education at Jackson State University, will receive the Kate Gooch Leader of the Year award from Leadership Memphis on March 3 during its 2023 awards luncheon. Porter, who serves as senior vice president of Relational Development and Social Responsibility at ALSAC/St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, said he is humbled to receive Leadership Memphis’ highest award.

“It’s an honor to be recognized among some of the most respected business leaders in Memphis and Shelby County,” said Porter. “I’d like to thank Leadership Memphis for this award and the incredible work they do preparing leaders to have an impact on the community.”

The Kate Gooch Leader of the Year recognizes a Memphis leader who demonstrates exceptional community advocacy, plays a pivotal role in driving the city forward and serves as an example for other leaders. Past recipients include A.C. Wharton Jr., a former mayor of Memphis; Fred Smith, FedEx founder; and Penny Hardaway, a former NBA player and now head coach of the men’s basketball team at the University of Memphis, to name just a few.

A native of Memphis, Porter earned a Bachelor of Science in mathematics and a Master of Science in higher education administration from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Memphis.

He began his career in higher education in 1996 as a graduate assistant in residence life at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, then became resident director at Maryville College. In 1998, he joined the University of Evansville, Indiana, as an area coordinator/academic advisor for the Lady Aces basketball team. In 2000, he became assistant dean of students at Arkansas State University, where he directed student activities and judicial affairs. 

In 2002, Porter’s career led him next to the University of Tennessee Health Science Center where he was assistant director and register, leading the efforts of central admissions counselors and other administrative staff for seven professional schools.

Porter said that while he worked in higher education, the prevalent belief was to switch positions every two years. This changed for him in 2007 when he joined FedEx, whose corporate culture fostered the development of extra workplace-relevant talents.

As a project/process advisor, Porter led large-scale information technology and enterprise-wide projects, focusing on increased efficiency and quality while maintaining on-time schedules and budget demands. 

From 2013-2016, Porter served as chief of staff for Shelby County Schools, a district with 14,000 employees and a $1.2 billion budget. Porter played a key role when Shelby County Schools and Memphis City Schools merged, then demerged into six new districts.

In 2016, Porter’s career took him to ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a Memphis institution known for treating its patients at no cost to patients and families and for sharing its scientific discoveries with the world. 

Porter worked first as senior enterprise operations vice president and was later named chief diversity officer. His current role as senior vice president for relational development and corporate social responsibility focuses on high-wealth and multicultural organization partnerships. 

The common thread running throughout Porter’s career is his ability to build teams, identify the talents of team members and pull them together for effectiveness. “I live for a challenge,” Porter said.  

Porter enrolled in JSU’s Executive Ph.D. Program in Urban Higher Education at the urging of a friend, Donald Comer, who is also enrolled in the program. Porter would like to eventually secure a senior leadership role at a college or university and realized a doctorate is necessary.  

“The experience of attending a Historically Black College was attractive, as was being part of a cohort of professionals in the research program,” said Porter. “It’s a rigorous program, but manageable.”

Walter Brown, Ed.D., executive director of JSU’s Executive Ph.D. Program in Urban Higher Education, praised Porter for his accomplishments as a doctoral candidate and recipient of the Kate Gooch Leader of the Year award.

“The recognition of his leadership in the community is only eclipsed by his successful tenure as a doctoral candidate,” he said. “We look forward to his further contributions to society after graduation, both as a scholar and as a leader in the city of Memphis.”