Doctor of Humane Letters

Darren Walker

Darren Walker is president of the Ford Foundation, an international social justice philanthropy with a $13 billion endowment and $600 million in annual grantmaking. He chaired the philanthropy committee that brought a resolution to the city of Detroit’s historic bankruptcy and is co-founder and chair of the U.S. Impact Investing Alliance.

Prior to joining the Ford Foundation in 2013, Walker was a vice president at the Rockefeller Foundation, overseeing global and domestic programs, including the Rebuilding New Orleans Initiative after Hurricane Katrina. In the 1990s, as chief operating officer of the Abyssinian Development Corporation—Harlem’s largest community development organization—he oversaw a comprehensive revitalization strategy, including building more than 1,000 units of affordable housing and the first major commercial development in Harlem since the 1960s. Earlier, he had a decade-long career in international law and finance at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and at the United Bank of Switzerland.

Walker co-chairs New York City’s Commission on City Art, Monuments, and Markers, and serves on the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform and the United Nations International Labor Organization’s Global Commission on the Future of Work. He also serves on the boards of Carnegie Hall, the High Line and the Committee to Protect Journalists. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has received 13 honorary degrees and university awards, including the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal from Harvard.

Educated exclusively in public schools, Walker was a member of the first class of the Head Start preschool program in 1965 and went on to graduate from the University of Texas at Austin. He has been included on TIME’s annual list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World, Rolling Stone’s 25 People Shaping the Future, Fast Company’s 50 Most Creative People, and Out Magazine’s Power 50. 

Audio and transcript of Darren Walker’s conversation with Professor Amrita Basu, “From Generosity to Justice: A Better Vision for 21st-Century Philanthropy.”