< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >
Walker, Doug (b. 1950) and Maggie (b. 1953)
HistoryLink.org Essay 10124
: Printer-Friendly Format
Doug Walker is a Seattle software entrepreneur -- cofounder of Walker, Richter & Quinn (WRQ) -- who has become a linchpin in Puget Sound philanthropy, with national conservation commitments that include chairing the board of The Wilderness Society. A climber who recently did a difficult Himalayan ascent, he shares his skills with kids, and recently took a U.S. Senator up one of the West's great peaks. Maggie Walker is a master at work on boards of trustees and the connectivity that drives them, her work so valued that the University of Washington College of Arts & Sciences had a tropical fish named for her.
Doug Walker is officially "retired" from his career as a successful software entrepreneur. But the South Carolina native, a 40-year Seattle resident, commutes by bicycle from The Highlands to downtown Seattle. He scales formidable mountain walls. And, with wife Maggie, Walker challenges his community to greater levels of giving.
He has, in recent months, climbed 22,349-foot Ama Dablam in the Himalayas. As board chairman of The Wilderness Society, Walker has overseen selection of a new president for the venerable conservation organization. He’s taught mountaineering skills to at-risk kids and recently guided Senator Maria Cantwell (b. 1958), D-Wash., to the 13,775-foot high summit of the Grand Teton.
"We were all very tired after the climb," Cantwell recalls. "Doug was bounding about: He is a person of bottomless energy" (Connelly interview).
If limitless energy is one feature that defines Doug Walker, another is a rare talent for multitasking. He made a career of integrating computer systems to work together, and in the nonprofit sector has (as has Maggie) integrated people to get things done.
He was in 1981 a cofounder of Walker, Richter & Quinn (WRQ), a firm whose assets consisted of an initial $500 and the intellectual capital of its people. IBM had just come out with its personal computer, and companies were looking for paths to connect and integrate their computer systems.
WRQ developed software products that helped corporations link their desktop systems into their central IT. Central IT comprises the computing resources (main frame, server banks, corporate data bases, centralized application) that get centrally managed by an organization. Personal computers are those more directly controlled by the individual user.
WRQ’s ware was intended to bridge the two worlds. “We figured, O.K., if there were computers on desktops, what could be done to connect to large (main frame) computers,” Walker explains. “We developed systems and software that made that connection” (Connelly interview).
As Maggie Walker notes, “There was no Internet back in those days.” The business that started with a $500 grew to serve eight million customers.
Doug and Maggie
Doug and Maggie Walker would tackle a curiously similar challenge, integrating into local philanthropy those who were cashing in on the technology revolution. The task involved motivating new donors as well as persuading local, regional, and national organizations to raise their sights.
“We have less really, really rich people here than some other places in the country: Wealth is more spread out,” says Maggie Walker. “And people here came to their wealth when they were very young. They found it hard to find a way in ... A lot of it was pushing organizations to come to terms with the opportunity in front of them” (Connelly interview with Doug and Maggie Walker).
The “way in” has led to formation of a multitude of new groups: Maggie Walker was a cofounder of Social Venture Partners, Doug Walker a founding member of the Seattle Parks Foundation. It has meant the resetting of established charities. In more than a few cases, a Walker sits on or chairs the board. The Walkers would laugh at the term “power couple” but that is what they are. Better put, they are a “connecting” couple.
RicK Beckett, CEO of Global Partnerships, which has specialized in microfinance and small loans in developing countries, talked at a 2010 luncheon about coming to Seattle. He described the town as a “relational city” and “the smallest big city” where he had ever lived.
In most cities, Beckett said, you have six degrees of separation, adding: "In Seattle, it’s only two degrees, and if you know Maggie Walker, there’s only one."
Doug Walker has been board chairman of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, a job he is (in 2012) set to take again. He is secretary of the American Alpine Club. He has chaired the Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), board.
Maggie Walker was until recently board chair of the Museum of History & Industry, and chairs the Seattle Foundation. (“She’s my boss,” jokes ex-Seattle Mayor Norm Rice [b. 1943], who heads the foundation.) Maggie Walker is co-chair of Waterfront Seattle (with ex-Mayor Charley Royer [b. 1939]) and sits on the board of Global Partnerships.
The group Forterra, formerly the Cascade Land Conservancy, drew 1,500 people to its recent annual conservation awards breakfast at the Seattle Trade & Convention Center. It didn’t exist 30 years ago and yet has protected 177,000 acres of land in the Puget Sound area and grown its efforts from Willapa Bay to the Kittitas Valley. Championing sustainable communities and balance in development, it has brought together groups that were bitter rivals in past environmental battles.
A "Doug & Maggie" table was prominent at the breakfast. Doug Walker is a director of Forterra. He has been instrumental in “selling” conservation philanthropy to the high-tech community. "We are tied to our environment here," he says. "We trade on our environment" (Connelly interview).
Doug Walker is active in the Conservation Lands Foundation, the Washington Wildlife & Recreation Coalition, the National Parks Conservation Association, and the Land Trust Alliance. Maggie Walker is a former board chair of the Bullitt Foundation, the region’s best known conservation philanthropy.
“They seem to be everywhere but they never make a big thing it,” jokes Tina Bullitt. Doug Walker and her late husband, Stim Bullitt (1919-2009) climbed together, tackling the route known as Illusion Dweller in California’s Joshua Tree National Park. Walker headed the fundraising effort that raised $250,000 to purchase land on the Index Town Wall to create the Stimson Bullitt Climbing Reserve. An easy 90-minute drive from Seattle, the "climbing classroom" prepares its students for Patagonia and the Purcells.
The Conservation Lands Foundation is among Doug Walker’s national causes. He is what’s known in green circles as a “lands guy,” and the Conservation Lands Foundation is dedicated to preserving America’s least known public properties, those managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
“The BLM manages 600 million acres of public lands, of which just 38 million acres are protected as wilderness. Most BLM holdings are lands on which there has been no formal disposition or designation,” explains Walker. He is working with ex-Interior Secretaries Bruce Babbitt (b. 1938) and Cecil Andrus (b. 1931), actor Edward Norton (b. 1969), and documentary producer Dayton Duncan in an effort to create more National Conservation Areas in Bureau of Land Management lands.
Doug Walker, Climber
Doug Walker can be found in places he works to save. He has, for instance, done winter climbs in Red Rock Canyon, a Bureau of Land Management National Conservation Area at the western edge of Las Vegas. He describes climbs from the desert Southwest to the Limbo Gorge in North Carolina to the Coast Range and Purcell Mountains of British Columbia.
Walker is matter-of-fact and low key about his sport. What initially attracted his interest? “As a kid I liked to climb trees.” Asked to talk about work as an American Alpine Club director, he prefaces by saying: "I am not a great climber." Of Ama Dablam, a famed obelisk near Everest, he remarks: "It was cool to be able to do that. Of course, I am not any kind of a great climber" (Connelly interview).
Walker describes climbing the Northeast Buttress of Mt. Slesse as "not terribly problematic." (Slesse means "fang" in Salish. The British Columbia peak is celebrated in Fred Beckey’s Cascade Alpine Guide: Beckey was first to climb the Buttress.) The north peak of Mt. Index is "cool looking, complicated and dirty," says Walker, who loves these features.
Walker celebrated retirement with two weeks in Yosemite, doing El Capitain and the east buttress of Middle Cathedral. He has climbed the Howser, Pigeon, and Snowpatch Spires in the Bugaboos. He loves Forbidden Peak in the Cascades, and the Grand Wall on Stawamus Chief, the half-mile-high granite dome outside Squamish at which skiers gawk on their way to Whistler.
Getting Young People Out of Doors
Walker has taken on a third "integrating" challenge. He explains it bluntly: "Conservation has a problem: Too many of us are not very young." He frets at figures showing that young people today prefer to spend time in front of their computers rather than in God’s great out-of-doors. "I want, while protecting the resource, to encourage people to see it: I want to see a broader class of people using the resource," he says (Connelly interview).
He works with Metrocenter YMCA to introduce middle school kids some at risk to the "freedom of the hills." The destinations range from Mt. Erie to the Olympic Coast, from Mt. Olympus to the Snow Creek Wall outside of Leavenworth.
"Climbers have a responsibility to look after their mountain environment,” Walker explains. “If you don’t promote a sense of ethics, who’s going to enforce it? If you want mountain regions taken care of, you promote responsible behavior among the users" (Connelly interview).
From South Carolina to Seattle
Doug Walker was born on August 17, 1950, and grew up in the Piedmont region of South Carolina, where his Scots-Irish ancestors lived since the mid-eighteenth century. At Wade Hampton High School in Greenville, South Carolina, he was a high school classmate of arch-conservative Senator Jim DeMint. He went on to graduate with high honors from Vanderbilt.
Maggie Walker is a self-admitted “Yankee, a New Jersey native, born on February 15, 1953. She moved to South Carolina as a teenager, met her husband in high school. In 1972, after Vanderbilt, the newly married couple came west to study at the University of Washington. Maggie majored in history and journalism and went into the commercial furnishings and design industry, for which she still consults.
The couple joke that they direct their money to candidates of a very different stripe than Jim DeMint. Doug Walker was notably generous with the 2008 campaign of Colorado Senator Mark Udall. Udall is a climber who has stood atop Aconcagua (highest peak in the Western Hemisphere) and 28,169-foot Kanchenjunga, third highest mountain in the world.
The Walkers do fess up to their integrating skills.
Maggie Walker, who earned two degrees from the University of Washington, found serving on boards to be "something I was good at." When it came to kids and mountaineering, says Doug Walker, “I have some skills at that. They needed volunteers” (Connelly interview with Doug and Maggie Walker).
The MOHAI Incident
The Walkers have had their moments. A couple years back, Mayor Mike McGinn (b. 1959) tried to get the city’s hands on a payment the state was making to the Museum of History & Industry: The MOHAI property was being acquired for the S.R. 520 bridge rebuild and expansion.
The matter came to a head at City Hall in a meeting that museum supporters took care to pack. At a key point, Maggie Walker looked to the audience and asked, "How many of you support Mayor McGinn, who wants to reneg on a payment to MOHAI for selling its land?" Hardly a hand went up. The Seattle City Council quickly axed the idea.
If the truth be told, such moments of drama are rare. Getting stuff done on a board of directors can require the patience of Job. “Doug has more of that than I do,” jokes Tom Campion, founder/chairman of Zumiez and creator of a namesake foundation that champions conservation causes.
At The Wilderness Society, Doug Walker is a Westerner occupying the chairman’s seat in an organization with a majority of board members from the Northeast. The society’s departing president, Bill Meadows, had been on the job for 16 years. The board ended up seeking out a person who hadn’t even applied, Jamie Williams, a 20-year veteran of The Nature Conservancy.
“Jamie has a history of big complicated deals ... . He is a lands guy,” says Walker. He cites the Montana Legacy Project, a $500 million, three-phase purchase of more than 310,000 acres of Plum Creek Timber land in Montana, midwifed by The Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Lands.
Like so many in the Northwest, Doug and Maggie Walker came here from somewhere else. They are like a lot of people -- except, of course, Microsoft founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen -- who are not from here, but have succeeded, gone native and given back.
The Walkers Now
The Walkers can make your head turn with what they’re doing at the moment.. Maggie Walker talks of her board work on the new Bullitt Foundation headquarters and the relocation of MOHAI to Lake Union. Doug Walker speaks of a class he’s teaching the following weekend at The Mountaineers, and his plans to return to the Bugaboos in British Columbia this fall.
He still has destinations in mind. "I want to do Robson," he says, referring to 12,972-foot Mt. Robson, highest peak in the Canadian Rockies.
Mt. Robson is a bear of a climb, a mountain tall enough to create its own micro-climate. Doug Walker will manage to be low-key about it, as he was at a West Seattle garden party a couple years back. He mentioned enjoying good weather on a just-completed climb.
Where were you, asked a fellow guest? Mt. Slesse, Walker replied. What route did you take? “We climbed the Northwest Buttress!” There aren’t too many climbers where you’d have to work to dig out that destination.
Joel Connelly interview with Doug Walker, March 15, 2012, Seattle; Joel Connelly interview with Doug and Maggie Walker, May 21, 2012, Seattle; Joel Connelly interview with Tom Campion, April 2, 2012, Seattle; Joel Connelly interview with Tina Bullitt, Seattle, April 19, 2012; Joel Connelly interview with Gene Duvernoy, May 17, 2012, Seattle; Joel Connelly interview with Senator Maria Cantwell, April 12, 2012, Mercer Island; Joel Connelly interview with Norm Rice, Seattle, April 5, 2012; Joel Connelly email exchange with Bruce Babbitt, April 6, 2012; Jean Godden, "The Smallest Big City," Jean’s Blog, May 6, 2010, Seattle City Council (http://godden.seattle.gov/); Fiona Cohen, “Meet the Maggie Walker Fish,” SeattlePI.com, October 11, 2009; “MOHAI Supporters Pack City Council Meeting,” Seattle Weekly, September 27, 2010; Fred Beckey, Beckey’s Black Book: Fred Beckey’s 100 Favorite North American Climbs (Seattle: Patagonia Books, 2012).
< Browse to Previous Essay
Browse to Next Essay >
Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that
encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both
HistoryLink.org and to the author, and sources must be included with any
reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this
Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For
more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact
the source noted in the image credit.
Major Support for HistoryLink.org Provided
By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins
| Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry
| 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle
| City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach
Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private
Sponsors and Visitors Like You