AUSTIN, Texas — Darren Walker, a Texas Ex and president of the Ford Foundation, will deliver the keynote address during the 2015 spring commencement ceremony at The University of Texas at Austin on May 23.
As the highest-ranking officer at the Ford Foundation, Walker currently oversees more than $12 billion in assets,$500 million in grants and 10 international offices for the Ford Foundation, the second largest philanthropic organization in the United States.
Walker earned three degrees from The University of Texas at Austin: a bachelor of arts in government, a bachelor of science in speech communication and a doctorate in jurisprudence from the School of Law.
“It is a tremendous honor to address the remarkable students of the class of 2015 at The University of Texas at Austin. I may live in New York City, but my heart will always belong in Texas,” said Walker.
“This is an exciting moment for these soon-to-be graduates as they set out, with fresh degrees in hand, to tackle the numerous and complex challenges our society faces. I am buoyed by optimism for their future, and I look forward to celebrating this grand achievement with my fellow Longhorns.”
In 2009, Walker received a Distinguished Alumnus Award, the highest honor bestowed by the University of Texas Alumni Association.
“Darren is an inspirational alumnus whose life embodies the ideals we as a university strive to teach,” said President Bill Powers. “I’m delighted that our graduates will be getting the benefit of his deep wisdom.”
Born in a charity hospital in Louisiana and raised by a single mother in a rural Texas town, Walker was a member of Head Start’s inaugural class in 1965. During his time at UT Austin, Pell Grants and scholarships helped finance his education.
After receiving his doctorate in jurisprudence, Walker spent almost a decade in corporate law and international finance before joining the Abyssinian Development Corporation, the largest community development organization in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood.
As chief operating officer at Abyssinian, Walker led efforts to develop over 1,000 units of housing for low- and moderate-income families, was involved in two of Harlem’s largest privately financed commercial projects in 30 years and oversaw the development of the first public school built in New York City by a community organization.
Walker later joined the Rockefeller Foundation, where he rose to the position of vice president and oversaw all domestic and international programs. Among other duties, he initiated new programming in urban development and arts and culture, and he led the foundation’s post-Katrina New Orleans Recovery Program.
In 2010, he joined the Ford Foundation as a vice president responsible for education, creativity, and free expression programs. He shaped more than $140 million in annual grant making around the world, covering areas as diverse as media and journalism, arts and culture, sexuality and reproductive health and rights, educational access and opportunity, and religion.
In 2013, Walker was named president of the foundation. His priorities include restarting grants to peace and global security efforts and dedicating funding to urban issues, both in the U.S. and internationally.
Walker is a board member of the Arcus Foundation, the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Friends of the High Line, the New York City Ballet and the Independent Sector. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.