The Financial Times explores the career trajectory of the foundation’s president, and why a simple coffee mug is one of his favorite mementos.

Published in the Financial Times

At Work with the FT: Darren Walker, president, Ford Foundation

By Sarah Murray

It is easy to imagine the trepidation a grant-seeker might feel stepping into the cathedral-sized lobby of the Ford Foundation’s headquarters in New York. But impressions of a remote, inaccessible institution dissipate on meeting Darren Walker, its ebullient president.

Mr Walker is not a typical foundation chief. He may now decide how to spend one of the US’s biggest charitable endowments — established in 1936 by Edsel Ford, son of Ford Motor Company’s founder Henry — but he was also once one of its beneficiaries.

His background is strikingly similar to that of many of the people the foundation helps in its mission to combat inequality. He was born in a Louisiana charity hospital, which offers free or cheap healthcare to poor patients, and raised in a small Texas town by a single mother. “I know what it feels like to grow up worrying about money,” he says.

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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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