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Jeff and Sue Walke

Walker Family Foundation

Transforming ideas into discovery in engineering and public health

Prior to and throughout his career in venture capital, non-profit leadership and philanthropy, Jeffrey C. Walker has been actively engaged with important universities. A graduate of the University of Virginia and Harvard Business School (where he later served as an executive in residence), he taught for a semester at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Among other organizations, Walker has served on the boards of UVA’s McIntire School of Commerce and Berklee College of Music, as well as the advisory board of the MIT Media Lab.

Jeff and Sue Walke
Professors Antonios Kontsos of the College of Engineering and Alex Ezeh of the Dornsife School of Public Health

More recently, Walker has also become a committed supporter and friend of Drexel University, partly through significant gifts that he and his wife, Suzanne, have made through the Walker Family Foundation. Interested in systems change (addressing the root causes of social problems including policies and resources), the Walkers support research at the Dornsife School of Public Health that investigates the social determinants of health in Africa. At the College of Engineering — where one of their four children, Hunter Pyung Walker, is an undergraduate studying engineering technology — they support research in transformative digital design and advanced manufacturing methodologies that can provide the means for sustainable and distributed fabrication needed in both developed and under-developed areas in the nation and worldwide .

Much of the Walker Family Foundation’s support for Drexel provides seed funding for new research – early stage investments that help researchers initiate projects and gather data and findings that later enable them to earn significant grant funds from government, foundations and corporations.

Some of this funding has helped Antonios Kontsos, associate professor in the department of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics at the College of Engineering, to initiate research in smart manufacturing. The early stages of one research project have enabled Kontsos to apply for a significant grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and establish a nationwide collaborative network which includes industry, government, universities and local communities. This research targets the democratization of making by leveraging cutting-edge technologies including artificial-intelligence supported design and automated 3D-printing.

It’s a real privilege to help Drexel initiate and accelerate scientific inquiry in public health and in engineering. The research goals of Alex Ezeh, Antonios Kontsos and others at Drexel align with our interests. More important, their work has a high potential for meaningful impact on people’s lives.

The NSF considers this type of research a “big idea” as it has the potential to  impact job creation and training in various manufacturing fields. Kontsos’s research team has identified applications in the energy, aerospace, biomedical and food sectors. In parallel, the team assisted by the LeBow College of Business and the Drexel Solutions Institute is investigating ways to create flexible and life-long learning suitable educational pathways for students, professionals and executives in these cutting-edge technologies.

The Walker Family Foundation also is supporting work led by Alex Ezeh, Dornsife Professor of Global Health in the department of Community Health and Prevention at the Dornsife School of Public Health, focusing on addressing the challenges arising from rapid population growth in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The additional funding has enabled Dr. Ezeh to add a postdoctoral student to his team to assist in research and program implementation highlighting the unique vulnerabilities that slum populations in SSA face, including the role of education, health and economic systems. Dr. Ezeh and his team also study sexual and reproductive health and strive to ensure that slum populations become more visible in national and global reports and data systems. The work that he leads with his team and faculty peers at the Dornsife School also receives significant funding from the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.

“It’s a real privilege for us to help Drexel initiate and accelerate scientific inquiry in public health and in engineering,” says Jeff Walker. “The research goals of Alex Ezeh, Antonios Kontsos and others at Drexel align with our interests. More important, their work has a high potential for meaningful impact on people’s lives.”

“Jeff and Sue Walker are dedicated partners and supporters of our research and our commitment to the ideal of health as a human right,” adds Ana Diez Roux, dean of the Dornsife School and Distinguished University Professor of Epidemiology. “Their generosity enables us to raise Drexel’s visibility in public health and our impact on systems change within growing urban populations.”


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