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Planes, trains and automobiles

Planes, trains and automobiles

Shea Donovan '21 December 09, 2021

John Porcari ’81 grew up in church basements. He watched his father, a longtime public servant, run countless community meetings and engage with people from all walks of life. He saw at a young age that one person can make a difference.

Porcari, now a public servant himself with more than two decades of experience, credits this upbringing and his education at the University of Dayton with expanding his horizons and inspiring his passion for service.

“In a very personal way, it gave me an opportunity to really think more broadly, explore different career opportunities and think about what I wanted to contribute to society,” Porcari said of his years at UD.

“And it gave me the tools to actually do that.”

John Porcari '81 in his office.
John Porcari '81

After graduating from UD with a degree in political science, Porcari went on to earn a master's degree in public administration in 1985 from the State University of New York in Albany. Since entering government service the following year, Porcari has had the honor of serving at the local, state and federal level.

“I’ve had the great privilege of working in a number of public positions, positions of public trust where you can actually make a difference,” Porcari said. “It’s clear in retrospect that UD was a great launching pad for that.”

A childhood love of planes, trains and automobiles prompted him to go into the transportation field, a love that ultimately paved the way for admirable growth and success. Success, Porcari affirms, that wouldn’t have been possible without the ongoing support of his family and colleagues.

“What I’m most proud of is our family and the life that Heidi (his wife) and I have built together. In professional terms, it’s actually the legacy of all the great people I’ve had a chance to work with and mentor and help professionally along the way,” Porcari said.

In 2006, Porcari was nominated as Secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation and in 2009 as deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, making him the department’s second-ranking official. In the years following, Porcari served as Deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer of the Department of Transportation in the Obama administration.

In August, Porcari was named the port envoy to the Biden-Haris Administration Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force. President Biden created the task force due to large-scale backups at U.S. ports causing supply chain disruption throughout the country.

“John D. Porcari is a nationally recognized public and private sector infrastructure leader, who has delivered some of America’s most challenging projects and driven the adoption of equitable, community-serving infrastructure policies and projects at the local, state and federal levels,” said a White House statement.

In his professional career, Porcari has and continues to hold positions of great influence. The real, behind-the-scenes work, the ability to engage with and learn from people of all backgrounds, however, is what makes the profession so rewarding.

“Some of the most satisfying things you can do are the ones that don’t get much attention.”

“Some of the most satisfying things you can do are the ones that don’t get much attention,” Porcari said. “Where you’re helping individuals, where you’re able to actually get people to work together that hadn’t done that in the past, where you’re bringing a community’s interest to the table.”

Passion to serve