The Preacher’s Kid
The early years of Scott Walker, including his much discussed time at Marquette University. Excerpted from a new book.
Scott Kevin Walker was born November 2, 1967 in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to Patricia Ann (née Fitch) and Llewellyn Scott Walker. Scott has one brother, David. The family moved to Wisconsin when Scott was ten years old.
Llew was a Baptist pastor, which let Walker label himself a preacher’s kid when it worked for his political career. In 2008, 76% of Wisconsin’s population self-identified as Christian. Walker and his family currently attend a non-denominational evangelical church in Wauwatosa. In 2009, Walker spoke to The Christian Businessmen’s Committee in Madison, Wisconsin and made clear his calling. The speech is still available on the internet.
Walker told this group that about the time many budding conservatives were casting a first vote for Ronald Reagan, he was committing to Jesus.
“I said, ‘Lord, I’m ready…not just in front of my Church and the world but most importantly at the foot of your Throne, I’m ready to follow you each and every day…I have just full out there said, ‘I’m going to trust in you Christ to tell me where to go. And to the best of my ability I’m going to obey where you lead me,’ and that has made all the difference in the world to me, for good times and bad.”
Walker once characterized his time as a preacher’s kid as living in a “fishbowl.” For an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal, he said:
In a 2002 article, prior to his election for Milwaukee County Executive, Walker allowed a different image to emerge. The article touts how Walker formed a “Jesus U.S.A.” club at the age of seven.
Imagine a young Governor Walker skipping down the sidewalk holding a coffee can with a sign taped to it: Jesus U.S.A. Club. Picture the little tyke knocking on doors giving each neighbor a spiel to raise money for a flag pole. Now, fast forward forty years as Walker raises money to campaign.
The article also said, “As a teenager, he would sometimes serve as a stand-in preacher for vacationing area Baptist ministers during the summer.” No doubt, that is where he honed his speaking skills. Walker does not use a teleprompter. He does not even use notes to convey his message. Watching Walker’s speech at the 2012 Republican National Committee convention, his awkwardness was apparent to those who have heard him speak. The teleprompter stood in his way of his normal smooth delivery.
In a 1990 Hilltop (Marquette University yearbook) interview, Walker further explained his convictions: “I really think there’s a reason why God put all these political thoughts in my head.”
Those thoughts had been there a while. In 1985 while attending Delavan-Darian High School, Scott Walker was selected for Badger Boy’s State – a week-long program of mock state government. He was then chosen to attend Boy’s Nation, another week of mock-government programming sponsored by the American Legion.
An article in Walworth County Today shows an old photo of Scott Walker and says, “He’s on his way to Washington, D.C.” The article continues by quoting a young Walker:
“Eventually, I’d really like to run for senator or representative,” Scott says of his career aspirations. But he’s quick to add, “In politics, you have to play it by ear.”
Walker graduated in spring 1986. The high school yearbook has several photos available online, including one labeling Scott K. Walker “the Desperado” which is pictured below.
A member of the 2010-11 Delavan-Darian high school yearbook staff asked Walker for a history on the photo after he became governor. Walker really did not remember, but offered that a long-time schoolmate of his was the yearbook editor, and he probably had more photos in there than he deserved.
For those of us from the mullet era, the picture is just darned cute.
After high school, Walker attended Marquette University from fall of 1986 to spring of 1990. During that time, he returned to the American Legion programs as a counselor in the summers.
Walker lost a 1988 bid for Marquette Student President, but did not leave college. Though rumors persist he left because of discipline attached to the actions of his campaign for the race, there is no evidence of it being fact, nor does the timing fit his exit.
Walker did not earn a degree from the university. There are inconsistencies in his departure. For one, earning a triple major in four and a half years would be quite an accomplishment requiring a great number of credits.
In the 1990 Hilltop yearbook, an article on Walker explains:
“Planning to graduate in December of 1990 with a triple major of political science, economics and philosophy, Walker hopes to continue his political activities such as running for State Assembly against Gwendolyn Moore in 1990.”
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel revealed more details on Walker’s college career in a July 2010 article:
“Walker released a letter from Marquette that showed he attended the school for four years, from 1986 to 1990, and would have needed to stay there for at least another year to get a degree. He had 94 credits and would have needed at least 36 more. The exact number of credits he needed isn’t clear because students must take classes in certain areas of study to get degrees.”
That total would have been for one degree as Marquette generally requires 120 credits to graduate. Walker’s Hilltop interview said he was expecting three degrees.
Another persistent rumor never proven is that Scott Walker left Marquette University for academic dishonesty. Research with several who made the claim could offer no more proof than their own opinions.
Glen Barry, PhD articulated his argument just before the June 2012 recall election:
“I wish I could say definitely why he never graduated – it is a closely guarded secret. I believe the general line of thinking – that Scott Walker was caught cheating. Both Walker and Marquette University should end their cover-up of what occurred. Instead Marquette hails Walkers as a “Marquette alumnus” even though he only attended and did not graduate.”
When asked for details Barry said, “No one knows, probably a deal between him and one priest, and they aren’t talking.”
Louis Weisberg, Editor in Chief for The Wisconsin Gazette, The Voice of Progress for Wisconsin’s LGBT Community, made a similar claim in June 2011 writing,
“As we saw during the budget standoff last winter, dirty tricks come easily to Walker, who was thrown out of Marquette University for cheating.”
When asked for specifics Weisberg replied, “…I wish that I had proof but I don’t.”
Other interviews, including one with a former dance date, indicate Walker left for financial reasons. It simply became too expensive to stay. This assumption also fits with another piece of evidence: The State of Wisconsin filed in court to collect taxes against Walker’s parents in 1987.
Marquette University Political Science Professor Emerita Janet K. Boles remembers Governor Scott Walker. In the April 25, 2002 edition of The Marquette Tribune, she gave a charming quote saying Walker “attended class every day in a three-piece suit. It was like teaching Alex Keaton.” Keaton was the character played by a young Michael J. Fox in the 1980’s sitcom Family Ties. She also said Walker was, “an average student who was likeable, articulate, and interested in urban affairs.”
Professor Boles continued her recollection in a follow-up e-mail in May 2012:
“I do know that he attended class in a three-piece suit (because he was working at a bank, as I recall)–hence my Alex Keaton quip. I recall Walker clearly because of that unusual classroom appearance and also as a very polite person. Another story (that I read within the year in the Wisconsin Gazette) is that Walker was put on academic probation over the campaign violations. That I am certain is a false rumor; student government election violations would not bring sanctions from the university. I believe that Walker did leave MU in good standing (with GPA well above the level that would bring academic probation/expulsion). A GPA of 2.59 is below-average for MU students (given grade inflation) but translates into a BC average.”
A Washington Post biography of Governor Scott Walker says Walker is the first Wisconsin governor in 64 years without a college degree. But Walker now has his eye on a national office, bidding to join the rare group of U.S Presidents without a college degree. Harry Truman, 1945-1953, was the only President in the 20th century without one. Before Truman it was Grover Cleveland in the late 1800’s.
This story is excepted from the book, “Scott Walker’s Wisconsin: A Fairly Conservative Perspective,” by Cindy Kilkenny, 2012, available at amazon.com