Honors for an “extraordinary servant leader”

This spring, DMU President and CEO Angela L. Walker Franklin, Ph.D., was honored by the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine and inducted into the Iowa Business Hall of Fame.

Approximately four miles south of Jordan Creek Town Center in West Des Moines, you will see rising from the ground several large buildings, a massive landscaping effort and hundreds of construction workers shaping Des Moines University’s new 88-acre campus. It will transform medical and health sciences education with state-of-the- art technology, diverse learning spaces, laboratories, simulation center, telehealth training center and more.

This ambitious undertaking is one example of the bold vision and strong leadership of Angela L. Walker Franklin, Ph.D., DMU’s 15th president and CEO. It was a contributing factor in her selection this spring both for induction in the Iowa Business Hall of Fame and as a recipient of the Dale S. Dodson Award from the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM). Created in memory of DMU alumnus Dale Dodson, past president of the American Osteopathic Association, this annual award recognizes a current or past chief executive officer or chief academic officer of an osteopathic medical college who has made significant contributions to the advancement and support of osteopathic medical education.

“President Franklin marshalled her leadership team to think through all of the complex variables associated with this enormous [campus] project, including the financial modeling and curriculum expansion opportunities that could be realized,” stated Dave Kapaska, D.O.’86, M.B.A., chair of the DMU Board of Trustees, in his letter supporting her nomination as an Iowa Business Hall of Fame inductee. “To do so successfully against the backdrop of the global pandemic and macro-economic challenges the nation is navigating is nothing short of awe-inspiring.”

President Franklin celebrates her induction into the Iowa Business Hall of Fame with son Wesley, his wife, Karen, and their daughter, Harper; her husband, Thaddeus; and son Grant.

The new campus is just one way President Franklin has shown she is an “uncommon, multitalented leader who is intently focused on the future,” stated Connie Wimer, chair of the Des Moines-based Business Publications Corp., who nominated the president for Iowa Business Hall of Fame induction. That and the Dodson Award reflect her values, perseverance and purpose throughout what she calls an “unconventional” career journey.


Dr. Franklin’s path to the DMU presidency was guided by the values her parents and grandparents ingrained in her. Her paternal grandparents, the Reverend Hervey Walker Sr. and his wife, Janie, established a funeral home in McCormick, SC, to ensure that Black residents were honored with the same services, care and respect as white people. They did so successfully even though it was during the Great Depression.

“They had the vision and determination to defy logic and strive for what some would have considered impossible,” President Franklin said at the Iowa Business Hall of Fame induction ceremony on May 4. “They would find a way out of no way.”

That “tenacity, perseverance and dogged determination” were further passed on by her parents, Leola, an elementary schoolteacher, and Hervey Walker Jr., who continued his family’s funeral business for more than 60 years. They were resolute that their two daughters would have opportunities to attend college, as they had, despite negative stereotypes and other potential obstacles. They also emphasized service to others and the “Golden Rule,” treating others as one wants to be treated.

Those lessons stuck. President Franklin earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology at Furman University and her master’s and doctoral degrees at Emory University. She held leadership positions at Meharry Medical College, where she also taught, and Morehouse School of Medicine before becoming DMU’s 15th president in 2011.

In that role, she continues to achieve what some “would have perceived to be impossible.” In addition to envisioning DMU’s new campus, she is leading the University in the home stretch of its Purple & Proud Campaign, the biggest fundraising effort in DMU’s history. The University publicly launched it in 2018 with a $25 million goal, but donors exceeded that in less than a year.

“Dr. Franklin is an extraordinary servant leader whose integrity and consistency of character are unimpeachable.” Sally Mason, Ph.D., DMU Board of Trustees member the home stretch of its Purple & Proud Campaign, the biggest fundraising effort in DMU’s history. The University publicly launched it in 2018 with a $25 million goal, but donors exceeded that in less than a year. “With that success and in support of the building of the new campus, President Franklin boldly – and rightly – announced the extension of that campaign to a new goal of $50 million, to close by 2024,” stated Sally Mason, Ph.D., president emerita of the University of Iowa and a member of the DMU Board of Trustees, in her Iowa Business Hall of Fame nomination letter.

DMU President and CEO Angela Walker Franklin is joined by some members of her DMU Executive LeadershipTeam: Mark Peiffer, Kevin Smith, Erika Linden, Kimberly Brown, Sue Huppert, Carolyn Weaver and Mark Danes.


In an increasingly diverse society, health professionals need to be prepared to care for patients and communities of all backgrounds. Toward that goal, President Franklin led DMU in promoting diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Early on, she hired Richard Salas, Ph.D., as the University’s first director of multicultural affairs; she eventually elevated him to chief diversity officer.

They led a university-wide effort to incorporate DEI in curricula, policies and programs to prepare future health professionals to provide culturally competent care. In addition, in 2020 DMU created a Faculty Staff Diversity Council to improve recruitment and retention of students, faculty and staff of color.

“Because of the success of DMU’s DEI work, other organizations have begun asking for guidance on how to start and maintain similar programs for their constituents,” Mason stated.

The University also has taken steps, under President Franklin’s leadership, to address the national shortage of mental health care providers. In 2018, DMU became the nation’s first medical school to partner with the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), the nation’s leading advocacy group for mental illness, to offer its provider education program to third-year osteopathic medical students. Last year, a new behavioral medicine center opened in the DMU Clinic. President Franklin worked with the region’s three major health care systems to make the center a rotation site for psychiatry residents.

The University’s academic offerings have expanded during her presidency, too, with the addition of a Ph.D. program in biomedical sciences and a doctor of occupational therapy program.

“It has been an amazing journey to this place,” President Franklin reflected at the induction ceremony. “I have described this story of my life as an unconventional journey, because in many respects, I have defied the odds, overcome great obstacles and arrived in a place that, early on in my career, I could have never imagined.”

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