History of Science graduate program growing with support of former OU National Merit Scholar

Spring 2019

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Luke Walker

Luke Walker

One of the nation’s leading history of science programs calls the University of Oklahoma home. Now, the discipline will grow even stronger by attracting the finest graduate students through the generosity of alumnus Luke Walker.

Walker, an oncologist, researcher and vice president of clinical development for Seattle Genetics Inc., is a former OU National Merit Scholar who made a recent $30,000 gift to the OU Foundation to benefit the Marilyn Bailey Ogilvie Alumni Graduate Fellowship. The fund was established in 2010 to honor the longtime faculty member and curator of OU’s History of Science Collections.

With Walker’s help, OU will offer one outstanding graduate student a $5,000 supplement to their annual stipend, matching or even exceeding funding offered by peer programs nationwide, said History of Science Chair and Professor Hunter Heyck.

“Dr. Walker’s gift is important because our field has been under a crunch during the last decade as universities’ budgets have declined,” he said. “For a couple of years, it was very tough to recruit graduate students.”

Walker’s gift comes as OU has placed a stronger focus on graduate education and research; as a result, base stipends in the program also are increasing. Graduate students – who teach and assist with research in addition to conducting their own scholarly work – are the secret weapon of academics, Heyck said. And funding is the key to attracting the very best.

“We see ourselves as being in competition for grad students with about two dozen programs,” he said, such as those at elite institutions like Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Johns Hopkins universities.

Heyck believes several factors set the OU Department of History of Science apart. “We are one of the oldest programs in the field and have a long tradition of excellence,” he said, explaining that graduate students work closely with OU’s famed History of Science Collections, which is part of University Libraries.

“The collections really are an extraordinary resource. OU easily is one of the top three places to study the history of early modern science,” Heyck said.
Those same resources are what first attracted Walker, who is a native of Lawton and was named both a Ewing Fellow and Big Man on Campus as a student. He earned a dual OU degree in Letters and French in 1994 and a medical degree from the OU Health Sciences Center in 1998.

“I already knew that I wanted to go to medical school and was able to marry the History of Science curriculum with that of Letters. It was a great opportunity,” he said. Walker believes the importance of OU’s History of Science program will only continue to grow.

“Science and society interact every day, and I think this is going to be more and more the case. The ability of a program like History of Science to develop not only scholars in that field but also future scientists who have this background is essential.”

Walker previously established two funds at the OU Foundation: the Sallie Walker Endowed Scholarship in History of Science, benefitting both undergraduates and graduates in the program; and the Walker Family Endowed Scholarship in Classics and Letters, which is awarded to undergraduates with a preference for science or medical education.

“I was really glad to have been part of the university,” he added, “and I think as an alumnus you realize it’s an important economic, cultural and social engine for the state that is worth investing in and maintaining because it has the ability to cultivate future leaders and make Oklahoma prosper.”