Walter Oliver

Posted by - - 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, Builders

A shining moment in Bill Robinson’s presidency occurred in February 2008, when he and Whitworth Board of Trustees Chair Walter Oliver, ’67, walked across a stage together in Washington, D.C., to receive the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities’ award for racial harmony. Bill wrote in that month’s Of Mind & Heart newsletter:

“The honor felt gratifying, even though we are so unfinished in our racial-justice efforts. In accepting the award, I expressed my sincere appreciation to the CCCU, but my deepest gratitude was for Walt. As a young African-American attending Whitworth in the turbulent ’60s, Walt excavated the best of Whitworth’s mission out of some pretty rough terrain. He never ignored the bad, but he always lifted up the good. He graduated in 1967 and has enjoyed an immensely successful career, culminating in his current senior vice presidency with General Dynamics.

“Through the years, Walt and Shirley Oliver, ’77, have blessed Whitworth so generously. In his role as a board member, Walt’s wisdom, hard work and major financial contributions represent a significant chapter in the current Whitworth story. So when he stood to accept the award for Whitworth, it was not the first time Walt had stood for Whitworth, nor did he stand alone. He has been standing for his alma mater for some 45 years, and he stands with all the alumni of color who never gave up on Whitworth, even when we let them down.”

As a student, Walt was a member of the football team and a musician with various ensembles. He earned a psychology degree from Whitworth and a master’s of science in human resource management from Gonzaga University, after which he moved swiftly through the ranks of positions in human resources at prestigious companies. He joined Whitworth’s board of trustees in 1996 and served as board chair 2008-2014. Among his many gifts to Whitworth, one of the more personal ones is the art gallery he and Shirley, who passed away in 2011, named in honor of their late son, Bryan, in the Lied Center for the Visual Arts.