THE UNIVERSITY OF VICTORIA
APRIL 16, 1999

In Memoriam

Former chancellor "had a way with people"

Robert Thomas Duff Wallace -- respected, admired and distinguished in Victoria academic and community circles -- died April 1 at the age of 92.

Wallace was associated with post-secondary education in the city for some 47 years. He was chancellor of the University of Victoria from 1972-78, held senior administrative posts at Victoria College and UVic (including acting president), and in the 1950s introduced the Victoria College evening division, the foundation of today's continuing studies programs.

After attending Victoria College, Wallace earned his bachelor of arts degree from UBC and his master's from the University of Washington. A math teacher, he taught every student who went to Victoria College between 1933 and 1945 (the first-year math course was mandatory).

Former UVic vice president of administration Trevor Matthews told the National Post that Wallace had a way with people from all walks of life. "When you went down the street everyone knew him. If we were going to a meeting we would have to schedule extra time so he could say hello to everybody."

Wallace was selected Victoria's "Man of the Year" in 1978 and was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1994 . "I still do not know how I could have qualified for this great honour," Wallace recalled in memoirs transcribed by Shirley Lyon of UVic's external relations division. "I was just lucky enough to have been able to stay in my home town, do a job that I loved doing, and make some good friends along the way."

In the 1950s, at the peak of McCarthyism, Wallace was the lone member of the Victoria library board to speak out against a decision to fire an employee suspected of communist leanings. That employee was John Marshall who, when the Greater Victoria library board formally apologized in 1998, called Wallace "the hero of 1954."

His one-year term as acting president of UVic, from 1968-69, came at a time of turmoil at other universities around the world, but Wallace seemed to have a calming influence on this campus, according to Peter L. Smith in A Multitude of the Wise: UVic Remembered. "No one could fail to appreciate the sane, calm, responsive and conciliatory leadership offered by Bob Wallace, who would have been an unthinkable target for student or faculty attack."

When he retired in 1971, UVic conferred an honorary doctor of laws degree. The next year, as chair of the Capital Region Hospital Commission, he helped steer development of Victoria General Hospital.

A great sports enthusiast, Wallace had a particular interest in rugby that began in his early teaching days at Victoria College. UVic's main rugby pitch was officially named in his honour in 1992, although appreciative players had long before informally adopted the "Wallace Field" moniker.

Wallace is survived by Norah, his wife of 63 years, daughter Barbara (Ross) Craigie, son Brian (Marilyn) Wallace, and brother Lawrie Wallace. Donations may be made to the Robert T. and Norah L. Wallace UVic Scholarship Fund or to a charity of one's choice.


Send EMail to The Ring

Return to Ring contents