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Wallace Scholars alumni reunite on 40th anniversary of scholarship program


Cooper family
 Special Wallace family guests included, left to right, Jim Johnson, Blake Jones, Karen Johnson and Nick Bracco.

Since 1976, more than 350 Wichita State students have earned their degrees with the help of the prestigious Wallace Scholars program, which awards scholarships to some of the most promising high school seniors in Kansas and beyond.

On April 29, 40 of those alumni gathered to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Wallace Scholars program and honor the memory of aviation pioneer Dwane Wallace and his wife, Velma Lunt Wallace, who endowed the program at Wichita State.

Students in the Wallace Scholars program have a 70 percent graduation rate and produced noted graduates such as Julie-Ellen Acosta ’80 ’84, a recently retired Boeing vice president; Cindy Hoover, a vice president for Spirit AeroSystems, and Amanda Smith, who works for NASA at the Johnson Space Center.

In addition to Wallace Scholar alumni, about 60 others attended the reunion in the new Experiential Engineering Building on the WSU Innovation Campus. Special guests were Karen and Jim Johnson, daughter and son-in-law to the Wallaces, and two of the Wallaces’ nine grandchildren, Blake Jones and Nick Bracco. Jones is the son of Linda Jones and Bracco is the son of Sara Bracco, both Wallace daughters.

“I think what impressed many of us was seeing the next generation, Blake and Nick, engaged in the Wallace Scholars program,” said Jason Bosch, director of scholarships and outreach for the WSU College of Engineering. “They spoke about their experiences growing up as part of the Wallace family, and the ways their grandparents inspired them.”

Jim Johnson also delivered remarks, highlighting some of the accomplishments of Dwane Wallace, who led Cessna Aircraft for more than 40 years. Many of the Wallace Scholars in attendance never had a chance to meet Wallace, who died in 1989. Velma Lunt Wallace remained active in the Wallace Scholars program until her death in 2012.

Wallace Scholars today receive a total of about $28,000 each over four years. As high school seniors, they participate in a competitive process for the scholarships, demonstrating academic excellence, engineering aptitude and leadership qualities.

“Seeing members of the Wallace family remain invested in the program is something we’re very grateful for,” Bosch said. “They obviously have a special connection to Wichita State that was fostered by Dwane and Velma. We’re enormously appreciative of their ongoing support.”