President of the Ford Foundation
The only way we can tackle the inequities that continue to plague our society is together, and it’s imperative that we awaken to the fact that what unites us is stronger than what divides us. The Vanderbilt Project on Unity & American Democracy is an important catalyst for challenging ourselves to acknowledge and appreciate our differences, while working toward the common goal of achieving a more equitable and unified America.
Darren Walker is president of the Ford Foundation, a $13 billion international social justice philanthropy. He is a member of the Reimagining New York Commission and co-chair of NYC Census 2020. He chaired the philanthropy committee that brought a resolution to the city of Detroit’s historic bankruptcy. Under his leadership, the Ford Foundation became the first non-profit in US history to issue a $1 billion designated social bond in US capital markets for proceeds to strengthen and stabilize non-profit organizations in the wake of COVID-19.
Before joining Ford, Darren was vice president at Rockefeller Foundation, overseeing global and domestic programs. In the 1990s, he was COO of the Abyssinian Development Corporation, Harlem’s largest community development organization.
Darren co-chairs New York City’s Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments, and Markers, and has served on the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform and the UN International LabourOrganization Global Commission on the Future of Work. He co-founded both the US Impact Investing Alliance and the Presidents’ Council on Disability Inclusion in Philanthropy. He serves on many boards, including Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the National Gallery of Art, Carnegie Hall, the High Line, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture. In the summer of 2020, he was appointed to the boards of Square and Ralph Lauren. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society and is the recipient of 16 honorary degrees and university awards, including Harvard University’s W.E.B. Du Bois Medal.
Educated exclusively in public schools, Darren was a member of the first Head Start class in 1965 and received BA, BS, and JD degrees from the University of Texas at Austin. He has been included on numerous leadership lists: Time’s annual 100 Most Influential People, Rolling Stone’s 25 People Shaping the Future, Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business, Ebony’s Power 100, and Out magazine’s Power 50. Most recently, Darren was named Wall Street Journal’s 2020 Philanthropy Innovator.