Philanthropist, Ford Foundation president Darren Walker to speak at Oberlin College commencement

Honorary degrees go to ballet, environmental, musical, investment notables

Staff Report



Lawyer, investment banker, and nonprofit executive Darren Walker has been tapped to speak May 22 at Oberlin College’s commencement ceremony on Tappan Square.

Born in Louisiana and raised in Texas, Walker is president of the Ford Foundation, America’s second-largest philanthropic institution.

Last year, Time magazine named him one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World.”

The Ford Foundation touts that influence, saying Walker “led the philanthropy committee that helped bring a resolution to the city of Detroit’s historic bankruptcy” and “managed the rebuild New Orleans initiative after Hurricane Katrina” while serving as vice president of the Rockefeller Foundation.

Walker was COO of the Abyssinian Development Corporation in the 1990s. It is Harlem’s largest community development organization, and under Walker’s leadership created more than 1,000 housing units.

He is co-chair of the New York Public Library Council and enjoyed a decade-long career in international law and finance at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and UBS. He is a member of the Commission on the Future of Riker’s Island and serves on the boards of Carnegie Hall, New York City Ballet, the High Line, the Arcus Foundation, and PepsiCo.

He has also been a teacher at the New York University School of Law and Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.

Walker was educated exclusively in public schools and was among the first children in the United States to benefit from the Head Start program.

His alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin, presented him with its highest honor, the Distinguished Alumnus Award.

He will receive an honorary doctor of humanities degree from Oberlin College.

Brenda Way will also be honored commencement weekend with an honorary doctor of fine arts degree.

Trained at the School of American Ballet in New York, Way launched the Oberlin Dance Collective as a professional company while teaching at Oberlin College before relocating to the Bay Area in 1976.

She is the founder and artistic director of ODC/Dance and creator of the ODC Theater and ODC Dance Commons, community performance and training venues in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Today, the ODC campus serves 15,000 students per year and presents some 80 performances annually.

Way has choreographed more than 90 pieces in the past 46 years. Her work, “Investigating Grace,” was named a National Endowment for the Arts American Masterpiece in 2011.

Rosemary Ahtuangauak, an environmental manager for the Alaska native village of Nuiqsut, will be presented with an honorary doctor of humanities degree.

She has been a community health aide and physician assistant, emergency responder, tribal and city council member, participant with the National Tribal Think Tank with CDC/APHA, member of the North Slope Regional Advisory Committee for the federal subsistence board, and a member of the working group of the RISING SUN Arctic Council study of suicide prevention.

Jazz and classical musician Eddie Daniels will be presented with an honorary doctor of music degree.

Leonard Bernstein said Daniels “combines elegance and virtuosity in a way that makes me remember Arthur Rubenstein. He is a thoroughly well-bred demon.”

Daniels has played tenor saxophone with the Thad Jones Mel Lewis Orchestra, won first prize in the International Competition for Modern Jazz, won Downbeat Magazine’s International Critic’s New Star on Clarinet Award, and earned numerous Grammy nominations and awards. In 2014, he won the Grand Prix de L’Academie du Jazz for the Best Jazz Album of the Year.

Oberlin College will present the Community Service Award to alumni Josh Rosen, Ben Ezinga, and Naomi Sabel, who formed Sustainable Community Associates and launched the East College Street development project. Today, the area hosts a mix of businesses and housing for all incomes.

To date, the SCA has led to the investment of more than $60 million in low-income neighborhoods throughout Northeast Ohio.

Its founders say their experience at Oberlin College tempered their problem-solving skills, values, and sense of social justice.

Honorary degrees go to ballet, environmental, musical, investment notables

Staff Report