Walmart Executive and Rhodes Alumna Julie Gehrki ’02 Named 2024 Baccalaureate Speaker

head and shoulder image of Julie Gehrki

Plans are underway for the 2024 Commencement Exercises of Rhodes College to be held Saturday, May 11. Julie Gehrki, a member of the Rhodes Class of 2002 and vice president of philanthropy at Walmart, has been selected to deliver the address at the Baccalaureate Convocation on Friday, May 10, 2024. The program includes reflections from members of the graduating class and expressions of gratitude to those who have helped them in their journey along the way.

Gehrki leads philanthropic investments for Walmart and the Walmart Foundation, but the Arkadelphia, Ark., native has been engaged in community service since coming to Rhodes in 1998. In addition to participating in Rhodes’ Servant Leadership, Kinney, and Micah 6 programs, she led a project teaching nonviolence education to children living in and around Memphis public housing and organized a conference of the National Student Campaign Against Hunger. As a result of her work, Gehrki was presented The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, bestowed annually to two graduating seniors who have given selflessly to others and the college.

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in religious studies in 2002 from Rhodes, Gehrki was one of six individuals selected nationally to serve as a Jane Addams Andrew Carnegie Fellow at Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy. After completing the fellowship, she worked for the General Commission on Religion and Race, a nonprofit located in Washington, D.C., and volunteered for Learn Enterprises, teaching English to students in Hungary and Slovakia.

Gehrki started as a manager in the Walmart Foundation in 2008. Today, she is responsible for programs that help create economic opportunity, enhance environmental sustainability, strengthen local communities, and accelerate racial equity. According to its corporate site, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation last year provided more than $1.7 billion in cash and in-kind services to support programs that align with their philanthropic priorities.

Gehrki has been a champion for addressing some of the economic, environmental, and social challenges faced in the world today and will return to her alma mater in 2024 to encourage the next generation of Rhodes graduates to make a difference in their communities and the world.

“I am incredibly grateful for and humbled by the opportunity to return to Rhodes, a place that instilled in me a passion for serving others and a deep sense of purpose,” said Gehrki. “I look forward to connecting with graduates and being inspired by the next generation of Rhodes leaders.”