Remembering Brian Walsh
Brian Walsh, a retired Partner who played a central role in the formation of Ballard Spahr’s P3/Infrastructure practice and who relished the complex public finance deals he orchestrated for health care, higher education, and transportation clients, died on February 20, 2021. He was 70.
Mr. Walsh spent his entire legal career at Ballard Spahr. A meticulous planner, of everything from vacations to transactions, he was a taskmaster, with demanding standards and strong views about the way things should be done. Younger lawyers who measured up found that they had a loyal and generous supporter in Mr. Walsh.
Clients were devoted to him, both for his fierce advocacy on behalf of their interests and the genuine pleasure he took in spending time with them and getting to know them as people. At the office, too, he enjoyed the social aspects of law firm life. He sought out relationships with colleagues across departments, and not just lawyers. Pamela Haynes Walsh, Mr. Walsh’s wife, said he had buddies in the Administrative Resource Center and Technical Support and that, when she visited her husband at the office, he always took her by the hospitality services area to say hello to his friends there. “He genuinely liked people,” she said. “He had a lot of friends from all times in his life.”
That was evident in the emails Chair Mark Stewart received from across the firm after he sent out word of Mr. Walsh’s passing. “Brian had a wide following and people were shaken and saddened by the news. They commented on Brian’s intellect and his sense of humor. And everyone, even those who didn’t know him well, remarked on what a good guy he was.”
Growing up, Mr. Walsh, whose father served in the Air Force, lived on air bases in this country and Europe. After graduating from Harvard College, he worked for a development company in Hilton Head, South Carolina, and ran a restaurant there. His keen interest in politics led him to Washington, D.C., where he found work as a Legislative Aide to Senator Lawton Chiles, a Florida Democrat. Disciplined and organized, he attended night school at Georgetown University Law Center, graduating cum laude in 1982. Mr. Walsh joined Ballard Spahr in 1983 and became a Partner in 1990.
As a young lawyer, he formed relationships with, and learned from, some of the best senior partners at the firm. “He had a finely tuned, if old-fashioned, sense of duty and propriety,” said his longtime friend Kevin Cunningham. For much of his career, his work centered on universities, hospitals, and large health systems. Then in 2007, Mr. Walsh co-led the Ballard Spahr team representing the Pennsylvania Governor’s Office and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation in the proposed privatization of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. An immensely difficult and complex transaction, it marked Mr. Walsh’s shift into transportation and infrastructure finance. He went on to handle highway projects for the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Colorado Department of Transportation, among others. “Late in his career he reinvented himself,” Mr. Cunningham said. “By the end of his career, he had really put Ballard on the map in the world of P3 finance.”
At home in Bala Cynwyd, it was family first. Mr. Walsh was devoted to Pam and their twins, Liz and Kate. He golfed, practiced yoga, cooked, and was passionate about politics and sports. (A lifelong Red Sox fan, he adopted the Phillies.) His travel tastes ranged from cultural capitals to national parks. Wherever he went, he made sure that hotels, restaurants, and activities were lined up in advance.
Retired Partner Geoff Kahn reflected on 15 years as Mr. Walsh’s golf partner: “They say you can learn a lot about a person on the golf course. What I learned about Brian was that he was always upbeat; unfailingly compassionate; and scrupulously honest. I also came to appreciate his devilish sense of humor; phenomenal recall for the ‘old days’ at Ballard; deep pride in the accomplishments of the Public Finance Department; and, above all else, unwavering devotion to his family.”
Mr. Walsh’s penchant for planning extended to his retirement in 2016. Travel, golf, service to Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, exercise, reading, and time with his granddaughter topped his list. Two years into retirement, in 2019, he suffered a debilitating stroke. In the ensuing years, Pam Walsh said, the friends her husband made throughout his career remained loyal, caring, and attentive. Besides his wife and daughters, Mr. Walsh is survived by his granddaughter and grandson.
Family and friends are invited to a virtual Memorial Service on Saturday, March 13, at 11:00 a.m. ET at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church. The service will be livestreamed on the church’s website at www.bmpc.org/livestream.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Mr. Walsh’s memory may be sent to Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, 625 Montgomery Ave., Bryn Mawr, PA 19010, or made online atwww.bmpc.org/giving; or to Jefferson University Hospitals, where Mr. Walsh received excellent compassionate care. Donations to Jefferson University Hospitals may be sent to Jefferson Department 825434, P.O. Box 71331, Philadelphia, PA 19176-1331, or made online at https://giving.jefferson.edu.