Walter Foundation awards $15.5 million to Rotary for peace center

Walter Foundation awards $15.5 million to Rotary for peace center

Rotary International has announced a $15.5 million gift from the Otto and Fran Walter Foundation to launch a Rotary Peace Center in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region.

The gift to the Rotary Foundation will fund an endowment for and start-up costs of the Otto and Fran Walter Rotary Peace Center, whose programs will include a professional development certificate program focused on peacebuilding and development issues in the region. The foundation will select a partner institution to host the center in 2024, with the first Rotary Peace Fellows expected to matriculate in early 2026.

Launched in 2002, the Rotary Foundation's existing Peace Fellowships program currently partners with universities in Thailand and Uganda and awards up to a hundred and thirty fellowships annually in support of master's degrees and certificate studies at universities around the world.

Based in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, the Walter Foundation was established in 1954 by Otto Walter and his wife, Frances Doonan Walter. Born in Bavaria in 1907, Otto Walter was an attorney who immigrated to the United States in 1936 after being disbarred under the Nazi regime's Nuremberg laws. After the couple died in 2003, Rotarian Frank Helman, a law colleague and friend of Walter's, became president and director of the foundation. Helman's wife, Martha, chairs the Rotary Foundation's Peace Major Gifts Initiative Committee.

"The Walter Foundation can imagine no better way to remember Otto and Fran and their legacy than through a Rotary Peace Center in the Middle East — a part of the world that has been torn by conflict," said Martha Helman. "The Walter Foundation is a small family foundation; we needed the partnership with Rotary to create a world-class peace center."