Darren Walker is president of the Ford Foundation, the second largest philanthropy in the United States with over $11 billion in assets and $500 million in annual giving. The foundation is based in the United States and operates worldwide, with ten offices in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Central and South America.
For more than two decades Darren has been a leader in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors, starting with a local community and economic development initiative in Harlem, then shifting to global work on an array of social justice issues, including human rights, urban development, free expression, and more. His career in the social sector followed a decade in international law and finance.
Before being named president in 2013, Darren served as the foundation’s vice president for Education, Creativity and Free Expression, where 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.
He was a driving force behind initiatives such as JustFilms, one of the largest documentary film funds in the world, and public-private collaborations such as ArtPlace, which supports cultural development in cities and rural areas in America. He also oversaw the foundation’s regional programming in four offices based in Africa and the Middle East.
Prior to joining the Ford Foundation in 2010, Darren was vice president for foundation initiatives at the Rockefeller Foundation, where he led both domestic and global programs. Beginning in 2002, he helped guide the foundation’s programs in education, civil rights, workforce development and program related investments. He also supervised Rockefeller’s foreign offices, initiated new programming in urban development and arts and culture, and led its post-Katrina New Orleans Recovery Program.
Darren entered the nonprofit sector as chief operating officer for the Abyssinian Development Corporation, a community development organization in Harlem. There he 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.
Darren 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 the capital markets division. After leaving UBS, Darren worked for a year as a full-time volunteer at The Children’s Storefront, an elementary school serving low-income families in Harlem.
He is a 1982 graduate of The University of Texas at Austin and its School of Law in 1986. 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.
Born in a charity hospital in Lafayette, Louisiana, and raised in Goose Creek, Texas, he benefited tremendously from the leadership of opportunity-building philanthropies like the Ford Foundation that championed ideas like Head Start, the Pell Grant, diversity in higher education and community development corporations.
Passionate about his adopted city of New York, he lives in Manhattan with his partner, David Beitzel, a contemporary art dealer in Chelsea, and their English bulldog, Mary Lou.