Valaida S. Walker

Chair, Board of Directors, Elwyn Inc., Elwyn, Pa.

Valaida S. Walker, Ed.D, is the first woman to chair the board of directors of Elwyn Inc., a 156-year-old organization serving 12,000 special-needs children and adults annually. She guides the board?s decisionmaking on capital management, staffing, pensions and putting to good use Elwyn?s $212 million annual budget.

Encouraged by her parents ?to value education and be my best in any endeavor,? Walker completed a bachelor?s degree at Howard University and master?s and doctoral degrees in special education at Temple University. She established special-needs programs in Delaware and Wisconsin and volunteered to train teachers in the Caribbean, leading to her appointment as an executive adviser to the Caribbean Association on Mental Retardation. Walker also served as the first commissioner of Mental Retardation for Southern Pennsylvania.

Walker returned to Temple to teach and was appointed chair of the university?s Department of Special Education. She subsequently was named first vice president for student affairs. Now a professor emeritus, she enjoys the additional privilege of having the university?s dining court named in her honor as the Valaida S. Walker Dining Court. Other career highlights include an appointment by President Jimmy Carter to the President?s Committee on Mental Retardation and tenure as the only African-American president of the American Association of Mental Retardation.

In addition to her responsibilities at Elwyn, Walker remains committed to education and reads with a neighborhood child every Monday. ?I want to keep touch with youth because I think that it keeps you young. There is something about the youth which is very wholesome and refreshing,? she says. Reflecting on her life, she says: ?I feel like my life has been much richer than I ever thought it would be. I have had a very fortunate life and I have worked hard. What I would like to do is give something of myself back to humanity.?