American University of Beirut

Darren Charles Walker

Renowned for his dynamic leadership and unwavering commitment to fostering equality and innovation, President of the Ford Foundation Darren Walker is a powerful and transformative figure in the fields of social justice and philanthropy. His inspirational story started from rural poverty to corporate law and a career on Wall Street, to community organizing in Harlem, and his current leadership of a 16-billion-dollar philanthropic organization.

After receiving a BA in government and BS in speech communication in 1982 followed by a doctorate of law in 1986 from the University of Texas at Austin, Walker gained extensive experience in finance, working as an associate of capital markets in the Union Bank of Switzerland until 1994. He then became chief operating officer at Harlem's largest community development organization, Abyssinian Development Corporation, until 2001.

Between 2001 and 2005, he served as director of the US program at the Rockefeller Foundation, overseeing initiatives in education, employment, and sustainable community development, and led the Rebuild New Orleans initiative post-Hurricane Katrina. He soon became vice president of foundation initiatives at the Rockefeller Foundation, leading global programs focused on economic development and sustainability. In 2010, Walker was appointed vice president of the Ford Foundation, where he shaped grant-making strategies focusing on education, creativity, and free expression.

Within three years, Walker was appointed president of the Ford Foundation, impacting and overseeing a network of grants to promote various sectors, including education, arts, social justice, and philanthropy. His work emphasizes the importance of justice, equality, and inclusivity, and he has to this day bravely shed light on global troubles while inspiring positive action around the world.

Walker is a member of many prestigious organizations, such as the Reimagining New York Commission, and founding member of the Board Diversity Action Alliance. He is also co-founder of the US Impact Investing Alliance and the Presidents' Council on Disability Inclusion in Philanthropy and was co-chair of the New York City Census 2020. He serves on the boards of the National Gallery of Art, Carnegie Hall, the High Line, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Committee to Protect Journalists, Ralph Lauren, Bloomberg LP, and PepsiCo.

Previously, he served on the boards of several organizations, including the Arcus Foundation, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Friends of the High Line, the New York City Ballet, and the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies.

Walker is the recipient of several awards and recognitions including 16 honorary degrees, Harvard University's W.E.B. Du Bois Medal (2017), and the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Texas at Austin (2009). In 2022, he was awarded France's highest cultural honor, the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres for his leadership in the arts and in 2023, he was appointed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as an honorary officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to US/UK relations. The Wall Street Journal recognized Walker as a philanthropy innovator in 2020, and he was named one of Time magazine's annual 100 Most Influential People (2016) and Rolling Stone's 25 People Shaping the Future (2017). He was also selected as one of Fast Company's Most Creative People in Business in 2017, Ebony Power 100 in 2014, and Out magazine's Power 50 in 2015, emphasizing his impactful role in the realm of social justice and philanthropy throughout his career.

Walker is a long-time resident of New York City, where he lived with his partner of 26 years, the contemporary art dealer David Beitzel, who passed away in 2019.

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