Kenneth Walker grew up in East Providence, the son of Lillian and Frank Walker. He was the husband of Gail Walker for 63 years, the father of two daughters, Leanne and Michelle, a son Kenneth Jr., and six grandchildren. He served in the United States Army during the Korean War.
Dr. Walker graduated from High School in 1949, before the Civil Rights Act and before there was acceptance of African Americans in many occupations. In 1957, Dr. Walker received a BA degree from Providence College and began teaching English and Social Studies at East Providence High School while also serving as a Guidance Counselor. He earned a M.Ed. degree from Rhode Island College in 1962, where he later was a part time employee as the Assistant Director of Project Upward Bound, a program for disadvantaged youth. He then became assistant principal at Central Jr. High School in East Providence.
In 1970 Dr. Walker accepted a position as Assistant Professor of Education at Rhode Island College and achieved the rank of full professor in 1989. He taught at RIC until 1993. During this time Dr. Walker earned a Ph.D. in Education from Boston University.
During his tenure at Rhode Island College, Dr. Walker directed the Teacher Corps, a project aimed at improving the quality of education for low-income students. He also was director of urban education at Providence College where he served on the President’s Council for many years. In 2008, a scholarship was established at PC in his name to benefit minority students.
In 1963, the athletic Walker became a basketball referee and officiated at NCAA Division 1 games in the East Coast, the Big East, and the Atlantic 10 athletic conferences. He also helped to coach several Providence College basketball teams and worked closely with the players.
Dr. Walker was appointed to the Rhode Island Parole Board in 1980, becoming its chairman in 2008. He retired from the Board in 2014 having become its longest serving member. He was admired for his thoughtful and compassionate decisions and his willingness to give second chances to those who sought to change their lives. Dr. Walker received many awards for his work in the field of parole, including the Vincent O’Leary Award, the Ben Bear Award, and the Neil J. Houston, Jr. Award from Justice Assistance.
For his many contributions to education, Dr. Walker was given the NAACP Freedom Fund Award in Education in 1980. He was also a president of Big Brothers of Rhode Island and a member of the Board of Trustees at Salve Regina University and at St. Mary Academy Bay View.
After his retirement, Dr. Walker continued to participate and advocate for his community, emphasizing young people, the incarcerated, senior citizens, and the mentally and physically challenged, as well as issues related to the minority communities and their access to health care.
Dr. Walker was a trailblazer. He was a gentleman with a sense of humor and a true professional who cared deeply for others less fortunate. His work touched the lives of many Rhode Islanders.