Darren Walker is the 10th president of the Ford Foundation, but his connection to the institution and its mission — as a beneficiary, grantee and grant maker — has spanned his entire life.
As a child, Walker was a member of Head Start’s inaugural class in 1965, before attending Goose Creek, Texas, public schools. At the University of Texas, Pell Grants and scholarships helped finance his college and law school education. Both programs were Ford Foundation-funded pilot initiatives.
After a 10-year career in corporate law and international finance at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and UBS, Walker served for seven years as chief operating officer of the Abyssinian Development Corporation, Harlem’s largest community development organization and a Ford Foundation grantee.
From Harlem, he joined the Rockefeller Foundation, where he ultimately rose to vice president, and oversaw all domestic and international programs. Nearly a decade later, he was recruited to the Ford Foundation as vice president responsible for education, creativity and free expression programs, as well as the foundation’s four Africa offices.
In 2013 the Ford Foundation trustees appointed him chief executive, and today he oversees more than $12 billion in assets, $500 million in grants and 10 international offices. He also serves on various boards — including Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Friends of the High Line, New York City Ballet and the Arcus Foundation — and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.