ATHENA International to present Global Leadership Award to Melani Walton

ATHENA International, a global non-profit organization whose mission is to develop, support and honor women leaders, announced today that Andrea Conner, President, presented the ATHENA Global Leadership Award to Melani Walton, co-founder of the Rob and Melani Walton Foundation in Valley of the Sun, AZ on March 8, 2019 at ATHENA Valley of the Sun annual award event at the Clayton House.

The ATHENA Global Leadership Award is presented to an exceptional woman leader who demonstrates professional excellence, gives back to her community, assists other women in realizing their full leadership potential and has created an international impact on the lives of women. Walton joins a prestigious list of global recipients including Condoleezza Rice, Pat Summit, Dolores Huerta, Billie Jean King, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Marlo Thomas and Laura Liswood.  

“As co-founder of the Rob and Melani Walton Foundation, she is fearlessly committed to philanthropy on a local, national, and global scale. Her passion for education guides her support of research and innovation in education, the humanities, conservation and sustainability. Her gifts to the community, such as the Walton Optimal Neurological Discovery Education and Research Center at the Arizona Science Center, has allowed so many children to think for his or herself and explore limitless possibilities, many of which we hope will have the power to change the world,” said ATHENA International President Andrea Conner.  

Melani Walton serves and has served on a number of boards and committees, including: Arizona State University’s (ASU) Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives at GIOS, ASU’s Women and Philanthropy, 2013-2015 Co-Chair; the Arizona Women’s Board; Arizona Science Center Board and their Learning Committee Co-Chair, and the Galaxy Gala ‘Believe’ 2014 Co-Chair; Co-Creator of the Walton Optimal Neurological Discovery Education and Research (W.O.N.D.E.R.) Center; Arizona Foundation for Women’s Sandra Day O’Connor 2013 luncheon co-chair; The Phoenix Symphony Board, and B-Sharp W.O.N.D.E.R Project, 2014 Sound of Speed Co-Chair; The Phoenix Theatre’s Partners that Heal W.O.N.D.E.R Project; The Phoenix Children’s Hospital Board and Circle of Care Chair; Society of St Vincent de Paul Advisory Board; The Aspen Brain Forum; The Nature Conservancy; Conservation International; Foundation for Living Medicine; African Parks and she is a member of the National Association of Professional Women and the Arizona Women’s Forum.  

The Foundation is also supportive of the Rob and Melani Walton Urban Farm at St Vincent de Paul, Rob and Melani Walton Campus of Liberty Wildlife, and the Walton Fellows for Conservation International.  In honor of the couple’s efforts in conservation, The Nature Conservancy has dedicated the Rob and Melani Walton Nature Preserve in Northwest Arkansas. 

As a philanthropist, Melani Walton is committed to efforts on a local, national, and global scale.  With her studies in Art History and background as a K-12 Educator, real estate specialist, multi-sport clinician, and Collegiate All-American in basketball and track & field, she brings a diverse skill set to the philanthropic arena.  

“Melani is passionate about supporting research and innovation in the areas of education, arts and humanities, brain health, consciousness studies, well-being, conservation and sustainability,” said Martha Mertz, founder of ATHENA International. 

Additional honors and awards include:  A bachelor's degree in education, magna cum laude, from Dickinson State University in North Dakota in 1998, the scoring, rebounding and field goal records in women’s basketball, and she remains the DSU record holder in the triple jump. She was also named to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics All-American Track & Field Team three times, to the NAIA All-American Basketball Team, and was elected to the DSU Hall of Fame in her first year of eligibility in 2007. 

Walton attributes her passion for advocacy to the work of bringing people together for a common good. “We are one humanity. We must begin again the great work of uplifting human kind. Where we once stood and defined ourselves through our individuality and separateness, we must now join hands together and celebrate our commonness and collective vision for what an extraordinary future we can and must create together.”  

Since 1982, the ATHENA International vision has been to create a balance in the voices of leadership worldwide. For more information visit