Published on March 3, 2022 by Grace Thornton  
Zoe Walker

Zoe Karis Walker may have only lived a short time on this earth, but her legacy will live on through a new endowed fund for the Center for Women in Ministry at Beeson Divinity School.

A recent $25,000 gift from an anonymous donor created The Zoe Karis Walker Endowed Fund for the Center for Women in Ministry at Beeson Divinity School. The gift honors the daughter of Beeson alumna Hayden Walker (M.Div. ’13) and her husband, Cody, a Samford University graduate. Zoe died soon after her birth on June 24, 2016, from Osteogenesis Imperfecta Type II, a brittle bone disease that did not allow her ribcage to grow large enough to support lung function.

“What an honor that Zoe Karis Walker’s name will live on through Beeson’s Center for Women in Ministry,” said Kristen Padilla, director of the Center for Women in Ministry.

“This endowment in her name will enable the Center to further equip and encourage other women to proclaim and bear witness to the gospel, like Zoe and her mother, Hayden.”

Hayden Walker, who formerly served as the youth minister at Mountain Brook Baptist Church and now resides in Arkansas, regularly teaches and preaches the Word. She received the James Earl Massey Student Preaching Award when she was a student and has worked with the Robert Smith Jr. Preaching Institute since its inception.

Five years into their marriage, the Walkers began asking God to expand their family. Zoe was the answer to that prayer, and they prayed too that she would be an evangelist.

Then a routine second trimester anatomy scan showed signs of her fatal genetic disorder.

The couple was crushed — they grieved the reality that they wouldn’t get to see their daughter grow up. But they feel like Zoe is accomplishing the role they prayed she would have, as God has continued to use her life to bring grace to others who hear her story.

Padilla said that shines through in Zoe’s name.

“Cody and Hayden Walker named their daughter Zoe Karis, which in Greek means ‘life’ and ‘grace,’ respectively, as a witness to the Lord Jesus who of his love and grace for us has conquered death,” she said. “It’s only fitting, then, that this endowment would not only honor Zoe Karis but moreover remind us of the reason for which we are equipping women for gospel ministry.”

The Center strives to equip women in that way by offering encouragement and resources to build them up as they follow God’s calling on their lives. Since its founding in early 2021, the Center has received generous gifts that have allowed it to host a variety of networking and professional development events and conference. It also has started a library of resources for women in ministry, financially supported mentoring for Beeson and Samford students, offered book clubs, assisted female students with travel expenses for conferences, and is planning a spiritual retreat for this summer.

The $25,000 gift to the fund in Zoe’s name is a big step toward permanency for the Center, Padilla said. 

“We could not be more excited about this legacy gift,” said Beeson Dean Douglas A. Sweeney. “Hayden Walker is a beloved Beeson alumna, and this is a very special way to honor little Zoe’s life.”

Contribute to the Zoe Karis Walker Endowed Fund for the Center for Women in Ministry at Beeson or contact Gary Fenton, senior advancement officer, at

Listen to a conversation with Hayden Walker about Zoe on the Beeson podcast.

Read Zoe Karis’ story at

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.