Leslie Porter to Receive Phenomenal Woman Award

Leslie Porter to Receive Phenomenal Woman Award

By Alexis BlueUniversity Communications
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Leslie Porter
Leslie Porter

Leslie Porter began her career at The University of Arizona on the basketball court. Nearly 30 years later, the former student-athlete now works as director of recruitment and employee advising in the Human Resources department and continues to be involved in sports as a referee for high school volleyball and basketball games. Porter's most recent slam dunk: being named the 2009 Phenomenal Woman by the UA Alumni Association Black Alumni Club.

The award, given annually, recognizes an African American woman who has made significant contributions in her career and community, said Tanisha Price-Johnson, president of the Black Alumni Club. Past recipients have included local businesswomen, educators and even one national figure, renowned poet Maya Angelou, who was honored in Tucson in 2005.

Price-Johnson said the award goes to women who have been trailblazers or pioneers in the black community on a local, state or national level.

Porter, no stranger to trailblazing, has a few "firsts" under her belt. A former UA women's basketball standout, she attended the University on an athletic scholarship from 1980 to 1984. She was the first female from her high school in Riverside, Calif., to attend college on a full athletic scholarship.

After earning her bachelor's degree in personnel management from the UA, Porter worked as a local YMCA program coordinator and high school basketball coach before returning to campus as an employee 19 years ago.

At that same time, she began refereeing middle school and high school volleyball and girls' and boys' basketball. She was the first woman in Tucson to officiate boys' basketball games, and today she continues her work on the court while encouraging other women to become referees.

Porter's interest in the Tucson youth community extends beyond athletics, and when she's not offering career assistance to UA employees through her day job in HR, she's often helping high school students prepare for their future careers.

As a member and past president of the Society for Human Resource Management of Greater Tucson, Porter frequently gives career development presentations in high schools on topics such as resume writing, problem solving and interviewing. She said she wants to expose students to a wide range of career possibilities and help them develop the skills necessary for professional success in the 21st century, when people are likely to experience multiple career changes.

It's preparation she says she didn't get when she was young.

"Looking back, I didn't quite make the connection between school and what I was going to be doing for the next 40 or 50 years," she said.

Porter said she tells high school students to "figure out what you do well, what you enjoy doing, and then figure out how to get paid for it."

Porter was nominated for the Phenomenal Woman Award by Kendal Washington White, the UA's director of multicultural affairs and student success.

"Leslie is one of the most phenomenal people I know," White said. "She's got great energy and wants to make the campus a better place."

White said she wanted to nominate someone in an "unsung" position at the University. While some past award recipients have been well-known figures in the Tucson community, she hoped to recognize someone whose contributions might sometimes be overlooked.

"People need to be more aware of people like Leslie Porter," she said.

Porter belongs to several community organizations, including the Saguaro Girl Scout Council, United Way of Tucson and the Southern Arizona Human Resources Committee, Pima Community College's Training and Workforce Committee and the Tucson Basketball Association board. She was also recently nominated and accepted to the Tucson Links Association, a national women's volunteer service organization focused on the black community. Porter's husband of 12 years, Donald Porter, is a Campus Health Service and Arizona Athletics physician.

Porter will be formally recognized at the Phenomenal Woman Award Dinner in the Student Union Memorial Center Grand Ballroom at 6 p.m. on April 24.

The dinner is the Black Alumni Club's major annual fundraiser, and proceeds from the $75 ticket sales go toward the club's scholarship endowment and programs. Last year, the Black Alumni Club awarded approximately $95,000 in scholarships.

For tickets to the dinner, call 626-8626 or visit the Black Alumni Club Web site.

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