Wichita State News

Velma Wallace taught dignity, grace and generosity

Friday, July 27, 2012

Velma Wallace
Velma Wallace
After more than 35 years of awarding scholarships to Wichita State engineering students through the Dwane L. and Velma L. Wallace Endowment, Velma Wallace died July 8.

The Wallace Endowment, established in 1976, has awarded more than $3 million dollars in scholarships to hundreds of engineering students in that time.

Before her passing, Wallace was also instrumental in renaming WSU’s new engineering building in honor of retired president Don Beggs.

Wallace Scholars remember Wallace as not only their benefactor, but also as a trusted mentor.

Elisa Acosta, the current Wallace Scholar, has known Wallace for some time after being introduced by her mother and aunt.

When she was 18, Acosta remembers, she went to the Aero Club Ball to listen to Wallace speak about the award.

“She and I emailed a few times, and we met a couple times, but she always remembered me and asked about my siblings or mom,” said Acosta. “She was the nicest woman I've ever met.”

Always looking to help

Wallace scholar and WSU alum Joan Wagner served on the Wallace Student Council for three years, serving as president her senior year.

“This gave me the chance to get to know Mrs. Wallace very well. We would meet with her several times a year to discuss the state of the college and our progress in our educations,” said Wagner. “She was always so excited to hear when we were doing well, and if we were ever having problems, she would whip out that little notebook and start taking notes on how she could help us.”

Wagner kept in contact with Wallace after graduating in 1999.

“After college I stayed in touch, trying to schedule dinner with her two times a year,” Wagner said. “We would just catch up and discuss our lives. I truly value and cherish these times. Mrs. Wallace taught us so much about dignity, grace and generosity—all with a sense of humor and desire to have fun.”

A benefactor

Laura Bernstorf, another Wallace Scholar who now works at Airbus, also remembers Wallace as a benefactor who took the time to get to know students personally.

“When I started out as a Wallace Scholar, Velma asked us to send her a card on our birthday to let her know how we were doing,” Bernstorf said. “That first year I found out that our birthdays were one day apart. So the next year it became a shared birthday lunch.

“Over the 13 years I was privileged to know this special lady, she grew from my benefactor to a mentor to a friend,” said Bernstorf. “Yes, the financial gift of the Wallace Scholarship was amazing, but the gift of her mentorship and friendship was priceless. She was Velma and I was Laura, two Kansas girls born in May.”

Acosta said being a Wallace Scholar goes far beyond receiving the financial aid.

“I hope that the future scholars will try to learn more about everything Mrs. Wallace has done," said Acosta, "and (I) want current and future ones to strive to be more like her. “

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Created on Friday, July 27, 2012; Last modified on Tuesday, July 31, 2012