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Velma Wallace leaves $6 million to Wichita State University Foundation

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, July 2, 2013, at 6:54 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, August 4, 2013, at 7:25 a.m.

Several Wichita State University colleges will benefit from a large donation from late philanthropist Velma Wallace.

The widow of former Cessna Aircraft leader Dwane Wallace left $6 million to the WSU Foundation after her death, the university said Tuesday.

WSU has received half the gift and will receive the other half during the fiscal year that began July 1, said Patsy Selby, vice president for finance and administrative services for the foundation

About $3.5 million will go to the Dwane L. and Velma L. Wallace Endowment Fund for engineering students and the College of Engineering.

The school of music in the college of fine arts and the college of education each will receive $1 million for scholarships and departmental support, while $500,000 will go to athletic scholarships, Selby said

Wallace, who also gave generously to the arts and culture in Wichita, died last year. She was 95. Dwane Wallace died in 1989.

Both had long-standing connections to the university. Dwane Wallace graduated from Wichita University in 1933 with a degree in aeronautical engineering. He was on the foundation’s original board of directors and was instrumental in developing the engineering program.

As CEO of Cessna from 1935 to 1975, he built the company into the world's largest manufacturer of general aviation aircraft and one of the nation's top 500 corporations

Velma Lunt Wallace was born and raised in Wichita, graduated from Wichita Business College, joined Cessna in 1937 as executive secretary and married Dwane Wallace. She was one of aviation’s earliest women pilots.

The Wallaces, who were married for 47 years and had four daughters, created their endowment fund for engineering students at WSU in 1976.

At least 39 students received scholarships from the program during the 2012-13 academic year, the university said. WSU hasn’t decided whether the number of students or the amount per scholarship will increase in the wake of the gift.

“She was an icon in our community because she supported so many worthwhile nonprofit organizations and special initiatives,” said Elizabeth King, president and CEO of the WSU Foundation, in a statement from the university. “But dearest to her heart was the Wallace Scholar program and the emotional investment she made in her students, in addition to the financial commitment to their futures.”

The Wallace Scholar program was created by those who received Wallace scholarships over the years, Selby said.

One of Velma Wallace’s last acts before she died was to insist that the Engineering Research Building at WSU be renamed Donald L. Beggs Hall last July 1 as Beggs’ successor, John Bardo, took over as university president. Velma Wallace was a close friend of Beggs and his wife, Shirley.

Wallace had committed $3 million to the WSU Foundation for the $6 million building, King said at the time. That gift was separate from the newly announced gift, Selby said.

Selby said the foundation has received larger single estate gifts, but Wallace’s total giving over the years exceeds that of other estates.

Jim Johnson, one of the Wallaces' sons-in-laws, said in the university’s statement that it is important for WSU alumni to give back to the university. He used his in-laws as examples.

"With the positive experiences students received as a direct result of Mr. and Mrs. Wallace's generosity, I hope they leave with a feeling that they want to help future students receive what they did," Johnson said in the statement.

Velma Wallace’s donations to the Wichita community included a $10 million gift in 1993 to help create Exploration Place. She also donated to the Midway Kansas Chapter of American Red Cross, Kansas Society for Crippled Children, Kansas 4-H Foundation, Girl Scouts, Music Theatre of Wichita, United Way of the Plains, and others.

“She was just a wonderful philanthropist,” Selby said.

Contributing: Roy Wenzl of The Eagle Reach Fred Mann at 316-268-6310 or fmann@wichitaeagle.com.

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