Darren Walker, who emerged from small-town Texas to an international career in law and finance before becoming a leader in the nonprofit and philanthropic worlds, will become the 10th President of the Ford Foundation this September, succeeding Luis A. Ubiñas, the foundation’s Board of Trustees has announced.
“In Darren we have found a president of powerful and diverse ability, deeply committed to our mission and tradition of leadership in the social sector,” said Irene Hirano Inouye, Chair of the Board of Trustees. “With extensive experience in both the private and nonprofit sectors, a strong command of the substance of our work, and an engaging leadership style that relies heavily on collaboration and partnership, he represents the best of all worlds. He’s an excellent leader for a global organization with grassroots sensibilities, and we’re very proud that he emerged from within Ford’s own pool of talent.”
Walker’s appointment follows a broad national and international search that began when Ubiñas announced in March that he would step down after nearly six years of service.
“Our search included an extraordinarily high number of strong candidates and we are extremely grateful for the feedback, recommendations and ideas we received from across the world,” Hirano Inouye said.
Walker was recruited by Ubiñas in 2010 to serve as Vice President for Education, Creativity and Free Expression, one of the foundation’s three major programming areas. Immediately prior to joining Ford, Walker was Vice President for Foundation Initiatives at the Rockefeller Foundation, where he oversaw the execution of a broad range of programs in the United States and internationally. Prior to joining Rockefeller in 2002, Walker served as Chief Operating Officer of the Abyssinian Development Corporation, a leading community organization in Harlem. There, he guided efforts to develop housing for low and moderate-income families, was involved in two of Harlem's largest privately financed commercial projects in 30 years, and led the development of the first public school built in New York City by a community organization.
“Leading this institution is the opportunity of a lifetime, and I am so very honored and humbled,” Mr. Walker told Ford staff on July 24. “I pledge to work with energy and integrity, to lead while listening and learning, and to give my all in service of our mission: to build a world that is fairer and more just.”
Walker is a 1982 graduate of The University of Texas at Austin, and a 1986 graduate of its School of Law. He has taught housing, law and urban development at the NYU School of Law and Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, and is a fellow of the Institute for Urban Design.
Deeply engaged in community affairs and widely respected for his gifts of both substance and style, he is a member of the boards of the Arcus Foundation, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Friends of the High Line, the New York City Ballet and the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
He began his career in 1986 at the international law firm of Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton. In 1988, he joined the Union Bank of Switzerland, where he spent seven years in its capital markets division. After leaving UBS, Walker worked for a year as a full-time volunteer at The Children's Storefront, an elementary school serving low-income families in Harlem.
Mr. Ubiñas has served as Ford Foundation President since 2008, when he succeeded Susan Berresford.
“Luis leaves behind an institution that is even more focused in pursuit of its mission, operationally efficient and strong, and filled with remarkable people and purpose,” Hirano Inouye said. “Thanks to Luis, we’re well-positioned for a new generation of accomplishment, and Darren is the ideal leader to guide us into that future.”
Ubiñas led the foundation through the global economic crisis and the overhaul of its investment strategy to protect the institution’s long-term financial health. He also shaped a strategic and focused set of programs, and played a key role in launching new work on climate change, child marriage and a reimagining of the school day. During his tenure, the foundation also supported major new initiatives in global human rights, the arts, market-based approaches to overcoming poverty, and the deepening of democracy around the world.
“I am delighted that the Board has selected Darren as my successor,” said Ubiñas. “Darren will lead the foundation with thoughtfulness, style and energy. I know that under his leadership the core social justice values this organization stands for will continue to be strong.”