New School of Art building named in honor of Earl and Myrtle Walker

The Sam Fox Arts Center at Washington University in St. Louis will dedicate a new School of Art studio building in honor of St. Louis community leaders Earl E. and Myrtle E. Walker, Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton announced today.

In the foreground is the Wilpon Student Art Review Room, and the background showcases the painting studios of the Earl E. and Myrtle E. Walker Hallin the Sam Fox Arts Center.
In the foreground is the Wilpon Student Art Review Room, and the background showcases the painting studios of the Earl E. and Myrtle E. Walker Hall in the Sam Fox Arts Center.

Earl E. and Myrtle E. Walker Hall will be located at the southeastern end of the university’s Hilltop Campus, immediately north of the School of Art’s historic, Beaux Arts-era Bixby Hall. The three-story, 38,000 gross-square-foot limestone-clad structure will house graduate studios; ceramics, sculpture, painting and metalworking studios; and the Nancy Spirtas Kranzberg Studio for the Illustrated Book.

“Washington University is honored to have one of our new buildings named for Earl and Myrtle Walker,” Wrighton said. “They are exceptional people who have raised a wonderful family, founded and developed a successful company and contributed greatly to the welfare of others. The Walkers truly believe there is nothing more important than educating our young people and preparing them to become leaders in their professions. Washington University is proud to have the Walker name join other distinguished names associated with our campuses.”

Ceremonial groundbreaking for Walker Hall and an adjacent museum building — both designed by Pritzker Prize-winning Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki — will take place April 14, 2004. Construction will begin immediately following Commencement in May and is scheduled to last 18 to 24 months, with new facilities opening in Spring 2006.

Earl and Myrtle Walker are CEO and vice president, respectively, of Carr Lane Manufacturing Co., one of the world’s foremost suppliers of tooling components, which they founded in 1952.

As a young woman, Myrtle Agnew Walker aspired to become an artist but, in 1938, had to turn down a scholarship to Northwestern University in Chicago because the award covered tuition but not room and board. Despite that setback, her interest in the arts remained strong and she went to work drawing blueprints for houses her father built in Jefferson City and St. Louis County.

Earl E. and Myrtle E. Walker
Earl E. and Myrtle E. Walker

Over the last 30 years, Carr Lane Castings, the foundry the Walkers now operate in Shrewsbury, has earned a national reputation for fabricating bronze, brass, aluminum, stainless steel and painted steel artworks by sculptors from around the world. In particular, the company has worked extensively with St. Louis sculptors Ernest Trova, Don Wiegand and Harry Weber, notably on Wiegand’s bust of Augustus “Gussie” Busch and Weber’s sculptures of Jack Buck, Ozzie Smith and Stan Musial, all at Busch Stadium.

Construction of Walker Hall follows extensive, recently completed renovations to Bixby Hall and Givens Hall, the latter home to the university’s School of Architecture. When completed, the two new buildings will join Bixby and Givens as well as Steinberg Hall — current home to the Gallery of Art, Art & Architecture Library and Department of Art History & Archaeology in Arts & Sciences — to form an integrated, five-building Sam Fox Arts Center complex.

Total budget for renovations and new construction is approximately $56.8 million. The university has thus far accumulated resources totaling $46.8 million in gifts and commitments as well as in allocations. This leaves $10 million to be raised.

Jeff Pike, dean of the School of Art, pointed out that Walker Hall will allow programs currently housed at satellite facilities in University City and Clayton — including the sculpture, ceramics, photography and visual communications — to return to the Hilltop Campus. This, he said, will promote a renewed sense of community within the school while also fostering greater interaction with other units of the Sam Fox Arts Center.

“Walker Hall will literally transform the School of Art,” Pike explained. “For the first time in decades, all art students and faculty will work and study alongside one another at a single, central location. It is an extraordinary moment, for which we are profoundly in the Walkers’ debt.”

The Walkers, both natives of Kirkwood, Mo., are generous supporters of civic, educational and charitable organizations throughout the region. These include the Kirkwood School District, The Magic House in Kirkwood, the Kirkwood-Webster YMCA, the YMCA of the Ozarks, Shriner’s Hospital, St. Joseph Hospital, Trinity Lutheran Church of Kirkwood and the Girl Scout Council of Greater St. Louis. In 1989, they co-founded the Walker Scottish Rite Clinic for Childhood Language Disorders, which provides professional treatment for speech and language-impaired children aged two to six.

The couple founded Carr Lane Manufacturing when Earl, as a welder at McDonnell Aircraft Co. in the early 1950s, realized there was a market for standard tools to hold airplane parts as they were fabricated. The company soon took off, and today Carr Lane and its many subsidiaries supply more than 9,700 tooling items to the aerospace, automotive, appliance and furniture industries.

For more than 30 years, the Walkers have participated in the COE (Cooperation Education) Program with the Kirkwood, Maplewood-Richmond Heights and Webster Groves school districts. In 1988, they created an endowed scholarship fund at the University of Texas, Austin, and in the early 1990s created a Society of Manufacturing Engineers engineering scholarship. In 2001, the Myrtle Agnew Walker Art Grant was established at Kirkwood High School. Most recently, the Walkers funded renovation and refurbishing of the Art Room at Logos High School in St. Louis.

At Washington University, the Walkers established the Earl E. and Myrtle E. Walker Scholarship in the School of Art in 2001. In 1999, they received the Robert S. Brookings Award for exemplifying the alliance between the University and its community. In 1998, they established the Earl E. and Myrtle E. Walker Professorship in the School of Engineering & Applied Science, currently held by Kenneth L. Jerina, D.Sc. In 2002, Earl Walker received an honorary Doctor of Science degree.