Variety Showmen of the Year: 'Serial board-joiner' embraces multiple causes
When Dana Walden isn’t busy expanding 20th Century Fox TV’s portfolio of TV hits, which includes “Modern Family” and “Homeland,” she can frequently be found adding onto her substantial list of charity work.
The chairman and CEO jokingly describes herself as a “serial board-joiner,” and rightfully so. She sits on the board of UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center Foundation, the Los Angeles Zoo, the homeless employment organization Chrysalis and L.A.’s Saban Free Clinic. She’s been honored by the Legal Aid Foundation with the Access to Justice Award and received the Sherry Lansing Award from the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles.
One cause that is especially close to her heart is the Jonsson Cancer Center. Walden’s mother was diagnosed with lymphoma five years ago and has received treatment there.
“They just made such an impression on me in terms of their approach to this horrible disease,” Walden says. “Because they’ve helped someone who’s so important to me in my life, I felt an obligation to try to give back and do what I could to help them raise money.”
Foundation board member Jay Sures — managing director of United Talent Agency — realized that Walden would be the perfect addition to the Jonsson Cancer Center’s fundraising team when he reached out to Fox to collect donations.
“I really took (the cause) up and went really wide to the entertainment community, specifically in the TV business, to try to bring in a whole new host of donors and get behind it and give money,” Sures says. “Dana was one of those people who really stepped up and got her company to step up, and then she stepped up personally for that event.”
Walden (along with 20th Century Fox TV chairman-CEO Gary Newman) received the Gil Nickel Humanitarian Award from the Jonsson Cancer Center in 2009. With Sures’ encouragement, she joined the board in 2010 and was elected his co-vice chair the following year. The dynamic duo has since raised millions of dollars for the foundation.
Walden also seeks philanthropic work she can do with her two daughters, Aliza and Casey. She and her husband, Matt, support a number of animal welfare orgs (including A Chance for Bliss, a nonprofit that rescues elderly animals), which lend themselves to family-oriented activities.
“As our company has grown and my work obligations have grown, my free time is limited. I’m trying to integrate things I can do together with my girls into our charitable work.”
Despite her enviable career achievements, Sures said he’s most proud of the fact that Walden has been able to use her platform in the TV biz to help others.
“You’d be hard-pressed to find somebody that gets behind more charities and does more work for more charities,” he says. “She holds a great seat, in terms of her job at 20th Century Fox, and what I admire most is she uses that seat to do good things for other people.”