U professor awarded for community service outreach

Robert Koch

For 28 years, John Wallace, University philosophy professor, has shaped lives on and off campus.
University graduate Jeff Bauer, who is now an AmeriCorps Vista volunteer working with youth in English language programs at Hope Community in Minneapolis’ Phillips neighborhood, calls Wallace a mentor.
“Everyone hopes to find someone like John in their University experience because he lives his work,” Bauer said.
Wallace has been a leader in community service education since 1983, when he administered a University outreach program.
Campus Compact, a national organization engaged in on- and off-campus community service, chose Wallace on March 31 from among 80 educators to receive the Thomas Ehrlich Faculty Award.
Named after former Indiana University President Thomas Ehrlich, the award recognizes quality teaching, scholarship and leadership in community service education.
Wallace co-founded in 1996 the Jane Addams School for Democracy. Each semester, he sends about 50 University students to the community-based education center on St. Paul’s West Side, where they help Hmong and Latino immigrants improve their English and prepare for citizenship tests.
“Ever since I’ve started doing this teaching, the number of students coming from my classes has grown,” Wallace said. “When a chance comes up to work to build a better society, you take the chance.”
Wallace, 61, traces his commitment to community service education to his coming-of-age during the civil rights movements and counts himself among the resurgent wave in community service education that began in the 1980s.
At that time many people, including Reagan Education Secretary William Bennett, portrayed college students as selfish and uninterested in helping others, Wallace said. This portrayal alarmed him and fellow educators.
Wallace has received numerous other awards. The University awarded him on Feb. 25 the Josie R. Johnson Human Rights and Social Justice Award. The Minnesota chapter of Campus Compact presented Wallace on Tuesday the Sister Pat Kowalski Leadership Award.
Laurel Hirt, community involvement programs coordinator at the Office for Special Learning Opportunities, helped select Wallace as the University’s nominee for the Ehrlich award.
“John believes, as I do, that institutions of higher education, such as the University of Minnesota, need to take an active role in educating our students to be citizen leaders,” Hirt said.
On Tuesday, Wallace attended the signing of the “Presidents’ Declaration on the Civic Responsibility of Higher Education.” Craig Swan, the University vice provost, signed the document on behalf of the University at the ceremony, which took place at Macalester College in St. Paul.

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