Jane and Randy Walker, EE 1987, M.S. EE 1993, and their daughter Ciera Gillis, IE 2013, are grateful to be a Georgia Tech family. The daughter of a proud Tech alumnus, Michael Bayer, M.S. IE 1960, Jane shares Randy’s enthusiasm for his alma mater, and the couple is thrilled Ciera and their nephew Colton Walker, EE 2024, have continued the family tradition on North Avenue. They hope that Ciera’s children will one day attend the Institute and the next generation will similarly benefit from a Tech education. Randy remains involved in the life of the Institute through his volunteer leadership and service on the College of Engineering Advisory Board.
Demonstrating their deep appreciation for Georgia Tech, Randy, Jane, and Ciera have pooled their resources to give back to the Institute, focusing on undergraduate student support through the establishment of the Walker Family Dean’s Scholarship Endowment Fund in the College of Engineering. The College’s Dean’s Scholars Program awards a $10,000-per-year scholarship, for up to four years, to promising, highly qualified undergraduate students across all engineering disciplines. Dean’s Scholars have access to a cohort-based environment to grow their professional skills and networks. This programming is especially important to Ciera, who credits Tech for many of her career accomplishments. “I feel that Tech has set me up for success in a more hands-on way than a lot of people that I work with,” Gillis said. “Tech has cool programs where they really think about how you apply these skills to the real world, and that’s something that makes me want to keep giving back to Georgia Tech.” She is applying the lessons she learned at Tech in her position as a key account executive in media and entertainment at Google, a career she loves, and that has enabled her to give to the family’s scholarship fund through matching funds from her employer.
Increasing the number of endowed Dean’s Scholarships is one of the College of Engineering’s top priorities for Transforming Tomorrow: The Campaign for Georgia Tech. “This program changes the lives of our students and allows them to plan for their future rather than merely dreaming about it,” said Raheem Beyah, dean of the College of Engineering and Southern Company Chair. “The gifts from the Walker family and other friends of Georgia Tech provide pathways for our students to study abroad, expand their research, and have experiences that otherwise would not be possible.”
For Jane Walker, this tangible and direct benefit to students’ lives was the most important component of the gift. “I got behind it and excited about it when Raheem said that we would get a chance to meet the person who gets the scholarship and follow their journey, and hopefully their success,” she said. “I especially hope we promote more women in engineering.” The Walkers opted for their scholarship to give preference to underrepresented minority and women engineering students in the hopes of expanding access.
The family has personal experience with Tech’s support for students with financial need. To cover the costs of his Tech education, Randy participated in the Co-op program as an undergraduate. A recipient of the Hope Scholarship, Gillis also was inspired to give by some of her friends from Tech who were first-generation college students on need-based scholarships. “I’m still friends with them,” she said, “and see what they’ve been able to accomplish because of these scholarships.”
The Walker family considers this a valuable investment in students because of the quality of a Georgia Tech degree. “It’s a degree that gives you a lot of flexibility to do different things,” said Randy. “And it just keeps getting stronger over time.” The family is excited for the day they are able to meet the recipients of this scholarship, which will continue to support students for years to come.