Donor Spotlight: Jan and Graham Walker
Graham and Jan Walker grew up in Ottawa Canada, far from the ocean, but their summers in cabins by lakes and rivers influenced them deeply — fishing and boating became part of their DNA.
For years, their marine interests were limited to the seafood on their plates. But soon after Graham took a position in the Biology Department at MIT in 1976, they found themselves attracted to the rocky coast of Massachusetts. In 1990, they bought their house in Rockport and spent weekends and summers there with their son.
The Walkers’ connection to GMGI is layered and varied. As longtime visitors and residents, they’ve grown to be well-versed in Cape Ann history and culture. Through their 15-year association with the local sea shanty singers 3 Sheets to the Wind and the Schooner Adventure, they learned about the social history of the fishing industry and watched as changes in the industry took away the futures of some young adults on Cape Ann. Without the option to follow in their parents’ footsteps into the fishing industry, many are left without a clear life path. Jan and Graham see the Academy as an incredible opportunity to provide these young adults with a route toward a successful career — one that likely was never an option.
Through his research position at MIT, Graham was acquainted with several of GMGI’s founders and was a participant in the very first GMGI Science Forum held in 2015. Impressed by the ambitious science strategy, the stature of founders, the vision for the Academy and its importance to the Cape Ann community, Graham has become a true ambassador for the organization. Whether at events in Boston, Cambridge or Cape Ann, Graham can be found spreading the word about GMGI and the wonderful opportunities available to apply DNA sequencing and other tools of modern biology to the study of the ocean, our environment and human health.
“It has been a joy to watch the steady growth of the scientific and academic sides of GMGI,” the Walkers’ said. “We hope the local community can understand and embrace GMGI for what it can bring to the future of Cape Ann — big league science research, other biotechnology companies, and careers at all levels for the young people who can no longer turn to the ocean for fishing careers.” Jan and Graham’s generous support of GMGI has been focused on attracting the local community to the Institute through supporting the art exhibits, presentations, tours, and general public science communication. They are delighted that GMGI sees the value in embedding itself in the unique Cape Ann community. The Walkers are known by all GMGI staff as the ‘friendly faces’ in the room at any event, and their commitment to the organization has been unwavering. GMGI is grateful for their confidence in the mission and support of all that it takes to make it a reality.
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