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Three Sons Establish Scholarship to Honor Mom, a Catawba College Alumna

May 18, 2005

Category: Academics, Alumni, Students


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To mark her ninetieth birthday, Rachel Smith Walker’s three sons did something special; they established an endowed scholarship in her honor at her alma mater, Catawba College.   The scholarship will be awarded annually to an academically gifted student who is among the most need-based student applicants.

Mrs. Walker, a 1936 alumna from Millersville, Pa., probably would not have attended Catawba at all if then College President Howard R. Omwake, who served between 1931 and 1942, had not made a recruiting trip to Pennsylvania and offered her a scholarship.   Back then, the nation was gripped by a depression, and money to attend college and students to fill the college rosters were scarce.   Mrs. Walker enrolled at Catawba, sight unseen, all because of the scholarship.   While there, she made lifelong friends, including her college roommate Susan Blackwell Shope ’36 and fellow classmate Mary Omwake Dearborn, and she earned a degree in mathematics.

“The scholarship is a wonderful tribute from the sons to their mother,” noted Catawba Senior Vice President Tom Childress.   “Hopefully it will serve to remind future generations of Catawba students about the impact a scholarship can have on a life.”

Following her graduation, Mrs. Walker went back to Pennsylvania and accepted a teaching position at a school in Fannetsburg, Pa.   Her husband-to-be, the late Joseph Walker who died in 1987, served as principal and teacher there.   After the two married in 1940, they moved to Bradford, Pa., where Mr. Walker took a high school teaching position, and Mrs. Walker began caring for the children who began to arrive.   Their three sons – Robert, Samuel, and Walter -- all joined the family in Bradford. In 1956, the Walkers moved to Millersville, Pa., where Mr. Walker accepted a teaching position at Millersville State Teachers College (now Millersville University), a post he held until his retirement.

Although Mrs. Walker became a stay-at-home mom with the birth of her sons, she was active in the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.) and the Presbyterian Church.   In Millersville, she was also a member of the college-based organization, the Campus Club.

According to oldest son Robert Walker, his parents greatly influenced him and his brothers.   “Both mom and dad had wide-ranging interests and were intellectually stimulating,” he said.   Robert Walker, who served for 20 years in the U.S. Congress, is chairman of Wexler Walker, a public affairs firm in Washington, DC.   Middle son Samuel Walker is employed as historian for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.   And, youngest son Walter serves as president and chief executive officer of the Seattle Sonics and Storm.

Today, Mrs. Walker makes her home in Millersville, Pa., and friends who would like contact her may do so at this address: 422 Hostetter Drive, Millersville, Pa. 17551.

Endowed scholarships at Catawba are established with gifts of $10,000 or more.