Thank you, President Wallace: On finishing well

September 25, 2014 | Leave a Comment

In this first part of a series of interviews, Campbell President Jerry Wallace talks about why he’ll step down as president in June and the priorities for the year ahead.

Campbell University President Jerry M. Wallace announced last April that he will step down from the presidency on June 30, 2015, after serving in the role for 12 years and after working at Campbell for 45 years. Over the course of the academic year, will post a series of interviews with President Wallace, as well as other content, to commemorate his service to the university.

Here’s what to expect throughout the series:

  • Part 1: On finishing well
  • Part 2: On his childhood and college experience
  • Part 3: On being a preacher and teacher
  • Part 4: On the move to academia leadership
  • Part 5: On his time as president
  • Part 6: On saying good-bye

In the first part posted below, President Wallace talks about what he hopes to accomplish during his final year as president.

Part 1: On finishing well

Why is June 2015 the right time for you to step down as president?

No. 1 is my age. The Lord willing, when I leave the presidency in June, I will be 80 years old. When a person is 80 years old, it’s time for less responsibility and more leisure. That’s number 1. Number 2 is that there are some things I personally want to do with the hope the Lord will give me more bonus years to enjoy. But more than all of that, the university is at a stage where it needs new and enthusiastic leadership.

I’m very grateful to have been given the privilege to serve as the president of Campbell. When I became president it was a unique time for the university. My predecessor, Dr. Norman A. Wiggins, was sick and unable to continue serving as president. I was chosen because of my experience as provost and long service to the university. It’s very unlikely the university will select a 68-year-old person to become president again. But I hope we will look back on my years as president and say it was right for the university. It certainly has been right for me.


What was that last first day of the new academic year like for you?

Satisfaction, along with deep appreciation and gratitude for all the first days I have enjoyed over the last 45 years. Beginning a new school year always brought energy to me. Seeing students return and new students beginning their college years is very special. I must also say I felt bit of relief, because I knew after this year, I can watch the new year begin and feel less responsible!


What’s your mindset during your final year as president?

The mindset is to finish well, and that’s the top priority. But there’s a little sadness, too, knowing you are doing things for the last time as president. I also want to work with my colleagues to prepare for the transition to the next president.


What has to happen this year so you can look back and say you finished well?

Finishing well would be continuing to launch and prepare for new programs that will have a positive impact on the university, such as the beginning of a School of Engineering and the Doctor of Occupational Therapy program.

Finishing well would be continuing improvements to residence halls, breaking ground for the new Health Science Building, and enhancing the landscape along perimeter edges of campus. Above all else, complete Main Street and get out of the mud and dust!

Finishing well would be achieving another record year of enrollment in all programs.

More than all of that, finishing well would be to have a transition year where a new president can be selected who will lead the university to continued growth and meet the needs of the state and the world. There’s a lot of finishing well to do.


What’s keeping you motivated to finish well this final year?

Hopefully, to know I have done my best for the university and that I have kept faith with Campbell’s 128-year-old purpose to educate students to become “the salt of the earth and the light of the world.”

Interview conducted by and edited by Cherry Crayton, Digital Content Coordinator


Share your memories, thanks

Here’s how you can say thanks:

  • Post a message (and any photos with him) on your Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or Instagram accounts, and tag #ThanksDrWallace.
  • Post a comment in the comments section below.
  • Mail a note to Campbell Magazine, P.O. Box 567, Buies Creek, NC 27506.

#ThanksDrWallace via Storify


Pictured above: Dr. Wallace speaks to the class of 2018 about the significance of the medallion given to new undergraduate students during the New Student Convocation, August 17, 2014. Photo by Bennett Scarborough

Judy Robbins
  • My Wallace memories

  • Judy Robbins shares what it has been like to work as the assistant to President Jerry Wallace for the past five years in this as-told-to. The following is edited from an interview with Robbins.

    I was working in the English department for ten years when I found out through Human Resources that the position of assistant to the president of the university was open. I was asked if I’d like to interview with the president, and I said, “Sure.” I was definitely apprehensive about what would be involved in this position, but Dr. Wallace said he would work with me.

    These past five years have been fantastic working with Dr. Wallace. There hasn’t been a day that I haven’t wanted to come to work. He is so knowledgeable, but also very humble and very kind.

    There is never a time when he doesn’t stop to talk to students when he sees them. He’ll ask them what they’re interested in, where they’re from, and the degrees they’re seeking. We have students who go on mission trips who will write him a letter. Dr. Wallace personally responds with support in every case. He has a kind heart.

    He has a tremendous sense of humor, too. Sometimes he has me in stitches. He also likes to share. When he is in the office, we’ll have a snack and always split it in half. Sometimes it is an apple, sometimes grapes, or even a candy bar. He loves anything with chocolate.

    Dr. Wallace and I also have a love for dachshunds. I had a dachshund named Emmitt and Dr. Wallace had a dachshund named Holly. We love to compare them and talk about having a dachshund again.

    His leadership has had great influence on the students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Many changes have been accomplished because of his wisdom and understanding of this university, the backing of the trustees, and the generosity of our alumni and friends. He has let God guide him in the decisions made for Campbell. Dr. Wallace loves Campbell.

    Just one of the new additions to the university is the medical school. Dr. Wallace was touched when it was named the Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine. When I first saw the portraits of Dr. and Mrs. Wallace in the medical school commons, I thought, “Wow.” It brought tears to my eyes. It just looks so life-like.

    My heart is sad knowing this is his final year as president. We will miss him. Every morning when he comes in the office, we always ask each other, “How are you doing?” He always answers, “I’m blessed.” What a wonderful reminder every day: We are blessed.