Laura Walker, former longtime leader of New York Public Radio, named president of Bennington College

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Janice Yi

Walker

Laura Walker, former president of New York Public Radio, has been appointed president of Bennington College in Vermont.

Walker will succeed Mariko Silver, who stepped down in July 2019. Interim president Isabel Roche has served for the past year. Walker will start her term as president elect July 1 and become president Aug. 1.

“Laura is the unique, emboldened leader who can serve as both a visionary and a change agent,” said Board Chair Nick Stephens in a news release. “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.”

Walker stepped down last June as the leader of NYPR after serving for more than two decades. She said she would pursue university positions when she announced she was leaving.

“Bennington’s rich history and distinguished approach to a liberal arts education set it widely apart from many other institutions, and I am both honored and humbled to serve as the College’s next President,” said Walker in the release.

During her tenure at NYPR, Walker helped raise the station’s profile by launching and acquiring productions including Radiolab, The New Yorker Radio Hour, Two Dope Queens, Snap Judgement and Science Friday. She also helped raise the organization’s operating budget, grow its audience from 1 million to 26 million monthly listeners and led acquisitions of New Jersey Public Radio, classical station WQXR, podcast discovery app Pocket Casts and online publication Gothamist.

Before joining New York Public Radio in 1995, Walker worked as a freelance journalist and radio producer, served as a VP for Sesame Workshop — then the Children’s Television Workshop — and worked for Carnegie Hall.

In 2017, Walker was criticized for how she handled allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct involving John Hockenberry, former host of The Takeaway, and on-air personalities Leonard Lopate and Jonathan Schwartz. The detailed allegations were first reported by New York magazine’s The Cut. Walker publicly apologized and took responsibility for not acting sooner.

Station supporters expressed anger with Walker’s leadership, but she stayed on to implement reforms and address employees’ concerns. An outside law firm’s examination of harassment complaints, commissioned by the board, found no evidence of wrongdoing by senior managers. Walker’s longtime deputy, Chief Content Officer Dean Cappello, later left NYPR.

When Walker announced her departure, a spokesperson said it was not related to the controversy and was a mutual decision between the board. Walker was replaced by Goli Sheikholeslami at New York Public Radio in August.

This article has been updated with details of the controversy surrounding Walker and New York Public Radio involving inappropriate conduct by station hosts.

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