Community Builder

C. Alan Walker has helped Pennsylvania towns revitalize their local economies
by Patrick Broadwater
C. Alan Walker ’66 has spent a lifetime working to preserve the ideals he first encountered in his childhood hometown.

Walker grew up in the small mining town of Bigler, home of the Bradford Coal Company his father started in 1935. As is common in rural Pennsylvania, the tight-knit community was full of neighbors who knew each other by name, shared common values and took a communal approach to raising children.

But like many mining villages, the town fell upon hard times when factories closed and industry left.

C. Alan Walker
Photo: Eddy Marenco
C. Alan Walker ’66 received the Distinguished Citizen of the Commonwealth Award at the Pennsylvania Capitol in May.
After graduating from Bucknell, getting a master’s degree from Penn State and spending a few years working at DuPont, Walker returned to Bigler in the mid-’70s and took over what is now Bradford Energy. In an effort to maintain the sense of community he knew as a child, he set about helping to provide opportunities for children in the town. Among his biggest passions: being a leader in the Boy Scouts of America and spearheading a group to build a YMCA, giving the town its first indoor gymnasium in 1985.

Walker also helped to shape his alma mater, serving for 37 years on the Board of Trustees (1980-2017). With his wife, Judith, he established a scholarship in 1984 from royalties of the sale of a seam of coal that has since opened the doors of Bucknell to more than 200 students from Clearfield County.

On the professional front, Walker led numerous statewide boards and committees, including serving from 2004 to 2006 as president of the Pennsylvania Society, a group of prominent citizens to which he has belonged since 1970. His background and connections in the business world then led him to being chosen by Gov. Tom Corbett to head up the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) in 2011. As secretary of DCED, he targeted attracting new industries while simultaneously focusing on helping distressed communities diversify their economies and reinvent themselves for the 21st century.

Recognizing his efforts to make a difference in communities, the Pennsylvania Society honored Walker in 2022 with its Distinguished Citizen of the Commonwealth Award. He was presented with the honor in May at the Capitol in Harrisburg, 20 years after his father was honored with the same award.

“It comes from my roots,” Walker said. “The adults where I grew up really looked after kids and wanted them to have a better life, and that left a mark on me.”