Foundation president is profiled in People magazine.

Published in People Magazine

My American dream: Great success against all odds

By K. C. Baker

Born in a Louisiana charity hospital, Darren Walker grew up in a poor town in rural Texas with his single mother and three sisters. But even at a young age, he tells PEOPLE, “I had a thirst for what was beyond the horizon.”

His life changed in 1965, when his mother, Beulah Spencer, a nurse’s aide, enrolled the 5-year-old in a new educational program called Head Start, which gave him “a window into a world beyond my immediate circumstances,” he says.

Today, as president of the nonprofit Ford Foundation, Walker, 55—who lives in Manhattan with his partner David Beitzel, 57, an art dealer, and their bulldog Mary Lou—directs annual charitable giving of some $500 million, which has included awards to Head Start and the Pell Grants that helped fund his own education at the University of Texas at Austin and its law school.

The Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation is an independent organization working to address inequality and build a future grounded in justice. For more than 85 years, it has supported visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. Today, with an endowment of $16 billion, the foundation has headquarters in New York and 10 regional offices across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.

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