Ford Foundation President Darren Walker to Speak at BGR’s 2021 Virtual Annual Luncheon

January 20, 2021

Today the Bureau of Governmental Research (BGR) announces a special virtual presentation of its 2021 Annual Luncheon, which will feature Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, a $13 billion international social justice philanthropy. He will discuss “Philanthropy as an Agent for Change in the Public Sector: Priorities, Process and Impact in New Orleans and Other Cities” via Zoom Webinar from 11 a.m. to 12 noon (CST) on Tuesday, February 9, 2021.

Through the sponsorship of the Zemurray Foundation, this year’s event is free and only requires registration in advance. This is a departure from BGR’s traditional ticketed format to take into account current circumstances and to allow BGR to produce the event as a communitywide public service. Click the button to register:

“We are excited about the reach of a virtual event and honored to host one of America’s most accomplished nonprofit and foundation executives as our featured speaker,” said Amy L. Glovinsky, President and CEO of BGR. “With decades of achievement in creating positive community impact, Darren Walker is an extraordinary source of information about the ability of philanthropy to shape public policy. And we shouldn’t overlook his significant, local connection through his work to catalyze transformative change in post-Katrina New Orleans.”

BGR 2021 Virtual Annual Luncheon Featuring Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation

Highly regarded for his strategic, innovative thinking in philanthropy, Mr. Walker has a strong and impactful connection to New Orleans and the surrounding region. His local involvement in philanthropic investment began during his years as vice president for foundation initiatives at The Rockefeller Foundation, when he oversaw the foundation’s investment in planning efforts and other recovery initiatives for post-Katrina New Orleans. Five years later he moved to the Ford Foundation, which has invested tens of millions of dollars in the city of New Orleans to rebuild and improve physical and civic infrastructure. The foundation has provided working capital and technical assistance to strengthen the capacity of the city’s community development sector. It has contributed to the ongoing revitalization of neighborhoods such as Central City.  

In addition to leading the Ford Foundation, Mr. Walker is co-founder and chair of the Presidents’ Council on Disability Inclusion in Philanthropy. Before joining Ford, his work with The Rockefeller Foundation covered a wide range of global and domestic programs. In the 1990s, he was chief operating officer of the Abyssinian Development Corporation, the largest community development organization in the New York City neighborhood of Harlem. Born in Lafayette, La., and educated exclusively in public schools, Darren was a member of the first Head Start class in 1965 and graduated from The University of Texas at Austin. He has been included on Time’s annual 100 Most Influential People in the World, Rolling Stone’s 25 People Shaping the Future, Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business, and OUT Magazine’s Power 50.

At the BGR 2021 Virtual Annual Luncheon, Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF) President and CEO Andy Kopplin will facilitate Mr. Walker’s discussion of “Philanthropy as an Agent for Change in the Public Sector.” Before joining GNOF, Mr. Kopplin served as First Deputy Mayor and Chief Administrative Officer for the City of New Orleans under Mayor Mitch Landrieu from 2010 to 2016. Earlier, from October 2006 through January 2008, he served as founding executive director of the Louisiana Recovery Authority (LRA), the agency charged with leading Louisiana’s recovery efforts after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, where he developed the strategy and built the bipartisan coalitions that more than doubled congressional appropriations for Louisiana’s rebuilding. It was at LRA that Mr. Kopplin met Mr. Walker, then a vice president with The Rockefeller Foundation, and the two of them and their organizations worked together along with other local organizations like the GNOF to support a broad and inclusive local planning process to help New Orleans rebuild and recover.

“BGR selected Andy to help us host this discussion because of his layers of connection to our Annual Luncheon topic,” said BGR Chair Norma Grace. “Andy imports experience from his current role as leader of our local community foundation, and also as a state and local policymaker. He will do a superb job of guiding Mr. Walker through a variety of highly relevant topics.”

BGR’s presentation of Darren Walker is part of the Janet Howard Speaker Series in Governmental Research. BGR’s Annual Luncheon has a history of featuring high-profile speakers, such as Michael Lewis, Maureen Dowd, Kathleen Parker, Steve Roberts and Jonathan Capehart. “Mr. Walker’s leadership has highlighted the role philanthropy can play in driving and supporting needed policy change, including through his involvement in New Orleans, where his initiatives have contributed to the well-being of the region,” said past BGR chair Ludovico Feoli.

For questions about registering for the event, contact Marci Schramm at