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Spotlight: RFA President Jerry Walker

Last updated 01/24/2023

At the recent Annual Retiree Community Holiday Breakfast, RFA President Jerry Walker was presented with the Robert P. Biller Award for service to USC. The Emeriti Center thought this is the perfect opportunity for the retiree community to learn more about a familiar figure through a Spotlight.

Dr. Jerome B. Walker was hired by Zohrab Kaprielian, Vice President for Research and Administration, in 1972 as Assistant to the Vice President.  Jerry negotiated a no-cost exchange of graduate students between Caltech, UCLA and USC which still exists 50 years later.  When Dr. Kaprielian became Executive Vice President in 1973, he appointed Walker as Coordinator of Research.  Jerry wrote successful federal grant proposals creating the Center for Humanities and the Joint USC/UCLA East Asian Studies Center, which still exists!  

Dr. Walker accepted additional responsibility for coordinating major gifts for and traveling with President John Hubbard in 1978-1980 during the last two years of a major fund- raising campaign.

Next, Dr. Kaprielian asked Jerry to organize USC’s two-week long Centennial Celebration in 1980-1981, which included President James Zumberge’s inauguration.  Jerry created USC’s doctoral gowns, USC’s trustee gowns, the presidential gold medallion of office, and heraldic flags for every degree-granting academic unit.  He also organized the first Academic Honors Convocation, which he continued to expand and improve for decades as a member of the University Convocations Committee.

Jerry was asked by President Zumberge to be director of the Tyler Ecology Prize in 1981.  He renamed it the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement; he arranged for the Tyler Prize to be presented in Nairobi, Kenya in 1982 by Jimmy Stewart; and he generated high-quality nominations for outstanding Tyler Prize Laureates.  During Jerry’s 20 years as the administrator (1981-2001), the Tyler Prize honored three individuals who later received the Nobel Prize.

During 1981-1986, Jerry also served as Assistant Provost for Faculty Affairs under Provost Cornelius J. Pings and reorganized the University Committee on Appointments, Promotions and Tenure to remove two deans.  Dr. Pings then asked Jerry to write the USC’s accreditation report to the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) in 1986-1987, which has to be done every 10 years.  Subsequently, Jerry was promoted to Associate Provost in 1987.  

During the 1990’s, Jerry served as Associate Provost for Research under Provost Lloyd Armstrong, Jr. and Director of Tyer Prize for Environmental Achievement.  Jerry also served as USC Liaison to WASC for 20 years; he wrote another USC accreditation report to WASC in 1997-1998 (a two-year process); and he was invited to participate on WASC reviews of other universities’ programs in California, Armenia and Russia. 

During the last decade of his service, Jerry served as Associate Provost for Academic Affairs with Vice Provosts Joseph Hellige and Elizabeth Garrett. Jerry organized the University Committee on Academic Program Review, and he created the peer review process for USC’s academic departments.  Jerry conducted 70 peer reviews of academic schools and departments for eight years, 2000-2008.  In 2006-2008, he wrote two required WASC reports to assure the continuation of USC’s accreditation.  Jerry retired in 2008.

Jerry’s activities since retiring from USC have included: Invited to serve as Director of the USC Emeriti Center College by Janette Brown in 2008 and served until 2015. Arranged enrichment courses for retired USC faculty and staff; administered three awards, including the Faculty Lifetime Achievement Award; coordinated Living History Program along with Dick Martin; and continued to serve on the University Convocations Committee and the Academic Honors Convocation Committee. 

Lora and Jerry took a course on Guided Autobiography from Dr. James Birren, founding dean of the Davis School of gerontology; and they taught the course the following academic year. In addition, Jerry organized monthly meetings of the Forum on Global Change along with Professor Emeritus John Wills (History) and Professor James Moore (Engineering). 

Jerry served as Vice President of the Association of Retirement Organizations in Higher Education (AROHE), and he participated in two panels at AROHE biennial conferences.   

Outside of USC, Jerry served for six years as President of the Oceanaires, a 30-member men’s chorus, which is part of the Barbershop Harmony Society.  In addition, he sings with a barbershop quartet, called “Sound Stage.”  Jerry’s other hobbies include freshwater fishing and boating, travel, reading and gardening.  In 2010, Lora and Jerry traveled to Israel to welcome their first grandchild to the family, and they used the occasion to take a cruise to Greece and to visit friends in Switzerland.  

Currently, Dr. Walker is serving as President of the USC Retired Faculty Association.