UW News

December 15, 2020

UW announces Maggie Walker Deanship in the College of the Environment

UW News


Maggie WalkerUniversity of Washington

The University of Washington today announced a major gift that elevates the importance of climate change and secures the legacy of Seattle philanthropist Maggie Walker by creating a namesake deanship for the College of the Environment.

Honoring her life of service and commitment to the UW, in addition to an initial 10-year pledge of more than $400,000 annually, the Maggie Walker Deanship will provide a stable source of discretionary funding for the incoming dean and attract world-class talent to fill the position. A global search is currently underway to replace Dean Lisa J. Graumlich, who previously announced she is stepping down at the end of the 2020-2021 academic year and has been elected to serve as president-elect of the American Geophysical Union.

“This generous gift to support leadership in the College of the Environment is a fitting legacy for a philanthropist who has made an extraordinary impact in the realm of environmental preservation and sustainability,” said President Ana Mari Cauce. “We are deeply grateful to Maggie Walker for this profoundly personal investment to help ensure a livable future for our planet and the generations who will inhabit it.”

Today’s environmental challenges demand a combination of discovery, leadership and an impactful connection with communities. The Maggie Walker Deanship will contribute to these goals by providing the necessary resources to increase the visibility of the College of the Environment nationally and globally, and support and recruit talented faculty, students and staff.

“I just think that there’s a real opportunity here. I always operate off the principle of leverage. So, my gift is intended to leverage much more. It’s not seen as an end in itself,” Walker said.

The College of the Environment itself was born out of a conversation that took place over Walker’s dining room table in the mid-2000s. By 2008, the dream of a single College of the Environment was realized and the inaugural dean, Graumlich, was hired in 2010. Walker served on the search committee for the first dean and then, along with her husband, Doug, agreed to chair the College Advisory Board.

Maggie Walker, who is board chair of the National Audubon Society and president of the Walker Family Foundation, has spent more than a decade pursuing climate justice and serving on multiple nonprofit boards. Together, the Walkers have created six Walker professorships and curatorships and three fellowships across the UW, touching the arts, sciences and humanities, including the Doug Walker Endowed Professor of Nature, Health and Recreation in the College of the Environment’s School of Environmental and Forest Sciences.

Doug Walker died in a hiking accident in late 2015, and in 2016 the couple was recognized with the UW’s Gates Volunteer Service Award.

College of the Environment researchers study all aspects of the natural world, from the Earth’s core to the edges of the solar system, and merge advanced technology and innovation to resolve some of the most pressing issues facing our planet and its inhabitants.

“Maggie Walker has recognized for years that addressing our world’s greatest environmental challenges is a team sport, requiring engagement across disciplines and with partners to achieve meaningful progress,” said former U.S. Secretary of the Interior and UW Regent Sally Jewell. Jewell served for a year as distinguished fellow with the College of the Environment and currently chairs the EarthLab Advisory Council. “With her support and powerful name, the College of the Environment will be able to recruit a dean to build on Lisa Graumlich’s groundbreaking efforts to unite scholars across the UW with partners around the world in service to a sustainable future for our planet.”

Maggie Walker said she hopes her gift will inspire others to invest in the College of the Environment, especially during this critical period to combat climate change.

“This is about all of our grandkids and what their world is going to look like. We need to pay attention to it, not just by giving to nonprofits, but also by giving to the basic research that will inform how we approach these issues,” Walker said. “So for me, it’s an indication of confidence, and a recognition that the College has reached a certain point in its development where it deserves this kind of investment.”

To find out more about making a gift to the College of the Environment, click here.