The Reporter Columnist Doug Ford: Louise Walker making great achievements in business

July 21 2017

By Doug Ford



Dixon’s Louise Walker, president and CEO of the First Northern Bank, has been recognized as a Women Who Mean Business honoree for 2017 by the Sacramento Business Journal. The Journal has been honoring several women from Sacramento and neighboring counties annually for more than twenty years. The announcement written by Dennis McCoy can be found on the Internet. I can’t begin to cover all her achievements — it took McCoy twice as much space as I have for this entire column.

Her success in growing the bank has been phenomenal. The annual net income has grown steadily to about double what it was when she became CEO in 2011. She landed her first job with the bank at 18 in 1979, the year my wife and I made the deal on our house in Dixon after I retired from the Air Force. I find it amazing that the bank has expanded its assets from $40 million then to $1.17 billion now.

One of the weaknesses of our educational system nationwide is the neglect of financial literacy. Louise Walker has long been concerned about it. The year after she became CEO the bank “teamed up with Armijo High School in Fairfield to add an online financial literacy course to the curriculum in 2012.” More than a thousand students have completed it so far. I’m glad to hear that that program is being expanded to other locations in cooperation with the United Way.

A year or two ago I happened to mention an event at UC Davis to Louise. She went to it and met Dr. Judith Kjelstrom, director of the Current Progress in Biotechnology seminar and founder of the Teen Biotech Challenge that I have reported on here many times. Last year Dr. Kjelstrom was a Women Who Mean Business honoree. In searching for past years’ honorees, I found that Pam Marrone who has founded several biotech companies that focus on biopesticdes was an honoree in 1998. She has described her fantastic career in the Current Progress in Biotechnology seminar a couple of times.

One of the great improvements in our society during my lifetime has been the increased numbers of women who have managed to make great achievements in business, education and other areas. When I started college in 1950 men far outnumbered women in higher education, and a common attitude was that “the only reason for a woman to go to college is to catch a man who will make good money.” Now, women substantially outnumber men in higher education.

It has been a wonderful experience for me to meet and observe in action a large number of women achievers since I’ve lived in Solano County.

One who has achieved great things is Sandy Person, president of Solano Economic Development Corporation. She has been a member of the EDC for nearly three decades and staff member since 1999 under several previous presidents before she was appointed as president. She has created hundreds of jobs within the county by attracting numerous businesses to Solano. She has served many years on the Travis Regional Armed Forces Committee including a term as president. She has brought a great number of outstanding speakers to Solano for EDC meetings and has promoted closer cooperation between business and education leaders all of which has greatly strengthened the organization.

Another who I met at Solano EDC meetings is Martina Newell-McGloughlin who is a great educational entrepreneur. She rose rapidly to be the leader in the expansion of biotechnology at UC Davis and then the entire UC system. She has also done great work for her birth country Ireland and is now in a key position with the Abu Dhabi Education Council assisting the Persian Gulf nation in economic development that will enable it to continue to do well after the oil is gone.

Finally, I’ll mention the woman achiever who brought me to Solano County in the first place, Dr. Marjorie Grene (1910-2009). She earned a Ph.D. in philosophy in 1935 but couldn’t find a position with a college or university because men didn’t think women should “do philosophy.” She took up farming to earn a living. In 1959 she gained a part-time job teaching philosophy in Ireland. In 1965 she landed a full-time job at UC Davis. I talked with her there in 1974.

There is no Nobel Prize for philosophy but a comparable honor is to be selected to have one’s work recognized and published in a volume of “The Library of Living Philosophers.” Marjorie Grene was the first woman so honored in 2002.

The author is retired from the U.S. Air Force, lives in Dixon and serves on the Solano County Board of Education.