A prominent community leader with strong ties to the Brown School, Cora Faith Walker, MPH ’10, was just 37 when she suddenly passed away last year. Now, a foundation in her name has been established and her connection to Washington University solidified with a special fund formed to support scholarships for Brown School students working to achieve health equity, an issue Walker had focused on since she graduated.
“Cora’s life was spent doing work she learned at the Brown School,” said her mother, Robyn Drew. “I wanted her family to establish a foundation to support the legacy of that work in community service, social justice, and health equity.” Founded by Walker’s parents, Robyn and Edward Drew; her husband, Tim Walker; and other family members, the Cora Faith Walker Foundation was launched in a ceremony at the Clark-Fox Forum on November 5, 2022, which would have been Walker’s 38th birthday.
The celebration was spearheaded by Timothy McBride, Bernard Becker Professor at the Brown School, who was Walker’s advisor when she was one of 45 students in the school’s inaugural Masters of Public Health class. The foundation’s launch was attended by many local luminaries, including St. Louis Mayor Tishuara Jones, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, and U.S. Rep. Cori Bush. At the celebration, McBride announced the creation of the Cora Faith Walker Health Equity Fund, a renamed version of the scholarship fund he created in his parents’ name. McBride infused the fund with pledges for the next few years; his contribution will be matched by the Walker Foundation. More than $25,000 has been raised toward the foundation’s first-year goal of $100,000. The foundation will be funding scholars at all levels, from high school through graduate school. This year’s high school recipients will be from McCluer High School in the Ferguson-Florissant school district.
McBride was a teacher and mentor to Walker and their personal and professional relationship continued after her graduation in 2010. “I knew her well,” said McBride, who met Walker when she was a student at Saint Louis University, and he was one of her professors. Both wound up at Washington University, where McBride and other faculty helped create the public health program at the Brown School.
“Cora was a dynamic person with boundless energy and universally beloved, and I really miss her,” McBride said. Walker worked in community service and went on to win a seat in the Missouri House of Representatives, where she served in 2017-19 and worked on many of the same policy issues McBride was focusing on, such as Medicaid expansion. “She had a really good policy brain,” he said. “People turned to her because she knew what was going on, and she was extraordinarily well-connected.” Walker resigned from the House in 2019 to become Page’s policy chief in St. Louis County. She was a Brown School commencement speaker and named by the school as an Emerging Leader in 2018.
Drew said the foundation will also connect with organizations working with reproductive justice, access to health care, and the scholarships. She said her family hopes Walker’s namesake foundation and scholarship fund will ensure a lasting impact and remembrance of her values. “Even when I’m gone, I hope her name is still associated with Washington University and the Brown School,” Drew said.