About Porter College's Name

Porter College is named in honor of the grandfather of three University of California benefactors: Porter Sesnon, Barbara Sesnon Cartan and William T. Sesnon. Benjamin F. Porter and his cousin George moved to California from New Hampshire in the 1850’s, at the suggestion of another cousin, John Porter, who was a resident of Soquel in the 1840’s and later Sheriff of Santa Cruz County. The Porter cousins traveled by sea to Panama and walked the Isthmus to the Pacific Ocean before sailing up the coast to California.

After settling in Santa Cruz, Benjamin Porter purchased a small parcel of land containing a tannery in the area now known as Porter Gulch. By 1870, he had acquired more land and built a family home. That same year, he became founding director of County Bank of Santa Cruz. In 1896, Benjamin Porter’s only surviving child, Mary Sophia, married William T. Sesnon, a native of Alameda who later became Deputy Sheriff of the State of California.

The Porter-Sesnon family has always been a generous supporter of UC Santa Cruz and its mission. In 1968, a gift from Barbara Sesnon Cartan established the Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery, in memory of her mother. Other gifts have provided scholarships and grants for Porter undergraduates.

It was the extraordinary gift of nearly seventy acres of Porter-Sesnon land that created the endowment that the College now enjoys—in gratitude for which the College, which was founded in 1969 as College Five, was renamed Porter College on November 21, 1981.