Louise Epstein, director of university partnerships for Bentonville-based Walton Family Foundation (WFF), resigned last month less than two years after taking up the job. Her final day was Jan. 10.
Epstein said a handful of “fascinating” opportunities fell into her lap that were hard to turn down. She’ll be doing higher education consulting work across the country and even some internationally, focused on innovation and entrepreneurship.
Epstein started with he WFF in the summer of 2018. She was previously managing director of the Innovation Center in the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas in her hometown of Austin.
Before that, she was entrepreneur-in-residence at the McCombs School of Business in the Herb Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship where she mentored students. Epstein also founded Charge-Off Clearinghouse, a distressed debt company that valued, purchased and sold $1 billion of charged-off credit cards. In addition, she was one of the first women investment bankers in Texas and was elected to the Austin City Council.
Epstein and her husband, John Henry McDonald, are still residents of the gated Pinnacle Country Club neighborhood in Rogers but do plan to eventually relocate back to Austin. McDonald is, among other things in a remarkable life, an accomplished singer-songwriter. Epstein said that makes Austin a more suitable location for his work.
“His studio and backup band are all in Austin, and he’s been making the trip [to Texas] regularly to record,” Epstein said. “Being closer to his music needs makes sense for us to make the trek back to Texas.”
Epstein’s short time in Northwest Arkansas produced strong personal connections and friendships, she said. This past April, eight months after moving to the region, McDonald was involved in a near-fatal bicycle accident. Epstein said the support from the couple’s neighbors was overwhelming.
“We may be changing ZIP codes, but we’re not losing the friends we made here,” she said. “There’s just no finer people. And not to mention the Waltons. To work with them and get to know them … what extraordinary human beings.”
A WFF spokesman said the foundation will not be filling the director of university partnerships position.