Walker remembered for leading school to new life
Dr. James S. Walker, the tenth president of this institution, died last month. He was 88.
Walker and his wife, Nadine, came to Jamestown College in 1983. He began work during at a time when the college was facing serious financial challenges. His work paid off, and the college’s enrollment doubled before his retirement in 1993.
Below are memories of the Walkers shared by UJ staff and faculty.
I will forever be indebted to Dr. Walker for taking a chance on me when he hired me to be the University’s first Controller. I admired his confidence, his humor, his incredible ability to recall every useful, and often useless, fact ever written. Most importantly, I admired his ability to lead with both kindness and accountability. He was the right person for the right time in our school’s history and his legacy will live on as one of the University’s greats!
-President Polly Peterson
Dr. James Walker was an innovative scholar, pastor, and servant leader whose presidency brought Jamestown College from the brink of closing to a state of regional prominence, financial health, and record enrollments. He was a remarkable humanist and theologian who had studied with distinction under Prof. Dr. Karl Barth at the University of Basel in Switzerland, but was equally at home visiting with Presbyterian parishioners in small-town North Dakota churches.
He preached on weekends anywhere he could to share the gospel and raise awareness of the mission of Jamestown College. He was joyful, humble, wise, and empathetic. He never forgot a face and faced the challenges of his Jamestown College presidency with a rare combination of optimism, faith and realism.
– Katherine Stevenson, associate professor of foreign language
I met Dr. Walker on the sidewalk in front of Voorhees Chapel when I started working at Jamestown College in 1995. From that point on Dr. Walker would always greet me by my first name.
He was widely respected on campus and worked tirelessly to get the university back on his feet.
Walker had a warmth about him and he cared about all his employees. After he retired in 1998, he still visited campus and remembered me.
-Brenda Fischer, Library Services associate
Dr. Kroeze reopened the place, but Dr. Walker kept it from closing again, and that’s the truth.
Dr. Walker was a very good person to go to with a problem, because he was a problem solver. He was a very kind person but also a very direct person, so you always know where you stood with him.
-Phyllis Bratton, retired associate professor and library director
I remember Dr. Walker as always being positive and trying to see the rosy side of the situation. He was honest with the JC employees about the deficit we needed to climb out from under and that it was not going to be fast or easy. His reign brought us from an enrollment as low as 397 (as I remember it) to close to where it is now.
Dr. Walker and Nadine were always friendly and welcoming to me. I was not privy to any of the inner workings of the college’s financial woes, but I believe his leadership is a major factor in not just how the college is thriving today, but also a major reason that UJ is here at all.
– Jim Clark, cross country head coach
My chief recollection of Dr. Walker is connected with my job interview in February 1991. The campus was far less attractive then than it is now, and I was frankly informed that Jamestown College, owing to declining enrollments, had almost closed its doors in the mid 80s. Yet Dr. Walker had somehow turned all that around, and when I met him personally, he had a great deal of charisma that inspired confidence. Largely on the strength of the impression he made on me, I accepted the job offer when it came.
-Dr. Mark Brown, English Department chair
I distinctly remember the atmosphere/environment changing to one of honesty and open communication. Dr. Walker was open, honest, friendly to all, and I believe during his time at JC many things began to change. The manner in which the board and president worked together, the financial security of college, and the enrollment all moved in an upward direction. During his time here our enrollment soared from under 400 to nearly 1,000. You could see the campus changing – with building projects happening.
-Dr. Teree Rittenbach, professor of nursing
Walker’s 15 years at Jamestown College were considered the pinnacle of his career. He brought financial balance to the college and when he died, he was still making contributions toward its success.
– Professor Emeritus Sharon Cox,
in an excerpt from her column about Walker’s tenure at Jamestown College.
The full column can be read here. (Jamestown Sun account required)