Darren Walker Promoted To President At Ford Foundation

The second-largest foundation in the world didn’t go very far to find its next president. The Ford Foundation unveiled Darren Walker, currently its vice president for Education, Creativity and Free Expression, as the 10th president in its 77-year history.

Walker replaces Luis Ubiñas who announced this past March that he would step down next month after almost six years as president of the New York City-based foundation. With offices in the United States and 10 regions worldwide, the Ford Foundation has assets of more than $11 billion and annual giving of some $500 million.

“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 Board of Trustees Chair Irene Hirano Inouye said in a statement accompanying Ford’s announcement. “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,” she said.

As vice president, Walker oversaw more than $140 million in annual grantmaking, covering areas such as media and journalism, arts and culture, sexuality and reproductive health and rights, educational access and opportunity, and religion. Ubiñas recruited him to the Ford Foundation in 2010, bringing him from the Rockefeller Foundation, where he spent eight years as vice president for foundation initiatives. Prior to Rockefeller, Walker was chief operating officer of the Abyssinian Development Corporation (ADC), a housing and development arm of a church in the Harlem section of New York City.

Walker started his career in the for-profit world at the international law firm Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton in 1986. He joined the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) in 1988 and spent seven years in its capital markets division before leaving to become a full-time volunteer at The Children’s Storefront, an elementary school serving low-income families in Harlem.

“Leading this institution is the opportunity of a lifetime, and I am so honored and humbled,” Walker told staff yesterday morning. “I pledge to work with energy and integrity, to lead while listening and learning, and to give my all in service to our mission: to build a world that is fairer and more just,” he said.

Ubiñas, who spent 18 years at management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. before leading Ford, earned total compensation of $833,115 in 2011, according to the most recent tax forms available. Ford’s announcement did not provide salary details for Walker.

Walker is a 1982 graduate of The University of Texas at Austin and a 1986 graduate of its School of Law. He is a fellow of the Institute for Urban Design and serves on 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 also is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.