SUNY Geneseo Graduate First to Receive Dante Prize Twice

GENESEO, N.Y. - Will Porter, a 2012 SUNY Geneseo graduate, has received the 2012 Dante Society of America's Dante Prize for the best undergraduate essay, the first time in the society's long history that an undergraduate student has received the award twice. Porter also received it in 2010 as a sophomore.

"I truly admire Will, as a student and as a person," said Geneseo President Christopher C. Dahl. "Receiving this major national award in both his sophomore and senior years has further distinguished him as an outstanding scholar with boundless intellectual potential. As a student, he was universally admired by faculty for the caliber of his critical skills, the grace and polish of his writing, his love of literature, his personal modesty, and his collaborative relationships with fellow students. I was privileged to get to know him as a student in one of my courses. Without a doubt he is one of the college's most talented graduates."

Porter, from Manlius, N.Y., won virtually all literary prizes Geneseo offers and also received recognition for presentations at national meetings. He was an Edgar Fellow at Geneseo and as a junior was elected to the college's Phi Beta Kappa chapter. He was the only undergraduate to attend a national conference sponsored by Phi Beta Kappa and the American Conference of Academic Deans on the future of the liberal arts.

"Will was perhaps the most outstanding undergraduate writer I have ever encountered," said Ron Herzman, SUNY distinguished teaching professor of English and a well-known expert on Dante. "I'm quite certain he is destined to become a leading scholar in his field, and I was honored to experience his intellectual maturity and deep appreciation for engaged scholarship."

Since graduating, Porter has been working as a research assistant for Geneseo history professor Michael Oberg and has submitted applications to attend graduate school next fall, focusing on Early Modern Studies.

The society has presented the annual Dante Prize since 1887 for the best competitive essay by an undergraduate in an American or Canadian college or university on a subject related to the life or works of the Italian poet Dante. Porter's latest winning essay is titled "The Clockwork of Dante's Cosmos: Some Uses of Time in Paradiso." His winning essay as a sophomore is titled "'L'arco de lo essilio': The Nexus of History, Pilgrimage and Prophecy in the Heaven of Mars."

Though Porter is the only undergraduate to win the Dante Prize twice, he is not the only Geneseo graduate who has won the prize. Lisa Caruana, a 2005 alumna, shared the 2005 prize with a student at Harvard College. She recently entered an environmental studies graduate program. Prize winners in others years have come from institutions such as Princeton University, Duke University, the University of California - Berkeley, Yale University, Columbia University, Brown University, Northwestern University, Bowdoin College, and Brigham Young University.

The society awards a separate prize in a similar competition for American and Canadian graduate students.

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