Thursday, June 30, 2005 | We lost John Walton this week. Those that knew him were stunned by the sudden tragic news. John was truly a gentle man. He treated all with great respect. He listened intently. He acted quietly.

I first met John in the early ’90s when he was looking for ways to get involved with education in San Diego. He had heard of a fledgling effort of the San Diego Chamber to advocate educational reform. He walked into the Chamber office one day, didn’t identify himself and inquired about this new education project. He was told about the plans for the educational advocacy group. He liked what he heard and paid a $2,000 membership fee to become a member of the Business Roundtable on Education. He wasn’t told of the $5000 membership option. Later that day the folks at the Chamber found out who the John Walton was that had just joined the newly formed BRE.

John’s early BRE involvement was the beginning of so many educational issues that he supported in San Diego. He went on to underwrite hundreds of thousands of dollars of Roundtable activity. Among the BRE efforts he supported was the development of the much-heralded High Tech High as well as administrative and financial support for dozens of other charter schools. Few people knew of the enormous contribution John made to the San Diego region. Recognition for any of his wide-ranging nationwide philanthropy was not his goal.

We in San Diego, however, should recognize how fortunate we are to have had John Walton as a member of our community.

Neil Derrough retired as president of NBC7/39 and later served as chief executive officer of School Futures Research Foundation, a John Walton effort to work with charter schools.

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