Bennington College hires former public radio executive as president

Laura R Walker
Laura R. Walker is the newly appointed president of Bennington College. Wikipedia photo by VarickNYC2Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Former public radio executive Laura R. Walker will be the next president of Bennington College. 

Walker, who was the longtime president and CEO of New York Public Radio, or WNYC, is being appointed after former president Mariko Silver stepped down last summer

Walker, who will take over from Interim President Isabel Roche, will start as president elect on July 1 and become president on Aug. 1

“I look forward to serving as both a steward of and explorer on Bennington’s path to the future, upholding its proud traditions while helping the college to forge its own course in a changing world,” Walker said in a statement Monday. 

Walker, who spent 23 years at the helm of WNYC, oversaw major growth at the station, which is known for its local coverage of New York City as well as nationally syndicated programs, and podcasts. 

According to WNYC, under Walker’s leadership, the station launched 20 new programs including “Radiolab,” “On the Media” and “The New Yorker Radio Hour,” and its listenership grew from 1 million to 26 million. Its budget grew from $1 million to $97 million. Walker left the station in 2019.

“Laura is the unique, emboldened leader who can serve as both a visionary and a change agent. Throughout her career, she has ignited profound innovation, paving new paths in journalism, public broadcasting and the arts, and her fresh ideas are complemented greatly by a demonstrable ability to lead through change,” Nick Stephens, the chair of Bennington’s board of trustees, said. 

Walker also left WNYC after it faced scandals involving its workplace culture and complaints of managers harassing employees. 

In 2017, one host, John Hockenberry stepped down, and months later allegations of sexual harassment against him were made public.

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Two other high profile hosts were fired that year, after the company investigated allegations of inappropriate conduct and employees complained of a toxic workplace in the press.

WNYC hired a law firm to investigate the workplace. According to reporting by the station, the investigation found no systemic discrimination at the organization but did find “offensive and harassing conduct.”

Walker oversaw efforts to improve workplace culture and diversity at the station. 

Before Walker worked at WNYC she served as the vice president of development at Sesame Workshop, a nonprofit that has created television programs including Sesame Street. 

She began her career as a journalist, and previously worked as a producer for National Public Radio. 

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Xander Landen

About Xander

Xander Landen is VTDigger's political reporter. He previously worked at the Keene Sentinel covering crime, courts and local government. Xander got his start in public radio, writing and producing stories for NPR affiliates including WBUR in Boston and WNYC in New York. While at WNYC, he contributed to an award-winning investigation of how police departments shield misconduct records from the public. He is a graduate of Tufts University and his work has also appeared in PBS NewsHour and The Christian Science Monitor.

Email: [email protected]

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