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“You want to give back and pay it forward because somebody had to give so that we could be here,” said David Wallace ’82.
“It is important to me that those who can’t afford to go somewhere else—who have that capability to learn and grow—have that opportunity,” Diane Artist Wallace ’80 added.
A focus on students is at the heart of the Wallaces’ support of Berea College. Diane followed her older sister, Cynthia Artist, to Berea from their Alabama family farm.
“We both knew we were going to college, we just didn’t know where,” Diane said. “We needed some place we could afford. At home, we never went without food. We worked hard, but I could not have gone to another school.”
At Berea, Diane continued working hard, majoring in business administration. She then used her education in a successful career with the Social Security Administration.
Growing up locally, David said Berea was one of the last places he wanted to go.
“My parents were in support of me looking elsewhere, but deep down they likely were thinking, ‘Please choose Berea,’” he said. “I had wanted to go away; I’m glad I didn’t. By getting my degree from Berea, neither I nor my parents were saddled with debt. I am the first and only in my direct family to have a degree.”
David completed his bachelors’ degree in physical education in 1982 before pursuing his career directing YMCAs in Georgia and Kentucky.
Although they met while students at Berea, Diane and David reconnected and married years later, eventually moving back to Kentucky. Through the years they have financially supported their alma mater through the Berea Fund and in their estate plans through the Great Commitments Society. Most recently the Wallaces were the first to give in support of the Elvin Combs Practice Facility for baseball, golf, soccer, softball and tennis.
“What we gained at Berea put us in a position to do what we’ve done,” David said of their philanthropic support of the College.
“Some folks don’t think facilities should be upgraded, being fine with the way things are, but I think we show students respect by giving them a quality science building or a quality place to live,” Diane added.
Living in Berea now allows the Wallaces to be more personally involved at the College, where Diane serves as a trustee, and they both volunteer frequently.
“When we moved back to Kentucky about five years ago, we started helping with move-in day,” Diane recalled. “Seeing the faces not only of the parents, but also the (first-year) students, is significant. That’s what it’s about—the students.
“What I see when I am on campus and interacting with students is that they are bright,” Diane continued. “They are deep. They think about things that I had never thought about.”
David admits he was a bit reluctant about move-in day at first.
“I owe my enthusiasm for this to Diane,” he said. “She helped me understand how important it is for somebody to be there and make students feel welcome. Truth be known, I enjoy doing that. It’s nice to get to the point where you can give back; that point in life where there’s a little bit of security and resources to help the College provide opportunities for other students like us.”