To have success and wealth is one thing; to use it wisely for the benefit of others is something else. Utahns were fortunate in having John McChrystal Wallace spend his long life among them, for he had both traits. Community service was as much a part of his life as breathing.
Wallace died this week at age 95, less than six weeks after the passing of his wife, Glenn Walker Wallace. As dedicated, knowledgeable philanthropists, both made a profound impact on the community.Their backing of the arts, including the symphony and ballet, were legendary. In addition, they supported hospitals, helped get the homeless shelter program started and gave unstinting help to numerous charities.
In 1926, Wallace was a co-founder of the Salt Lake Community Chest, a forerunner of the United Way, and gave major assistance to fund-raising efforts by both organizations.
He was president and chairman of Walker Bank and founder of the organization that became First Interstate Bank. His business dealings in a long and productive career covered a wide range of interests and activities.
Yet business was not his only outlet. He was a state senator from 1933 to 1935, and was appointed Salt Lake mayor in 1938 and served two years. At one time, he was a civilian aide to the U.S. Secretary of the Army. He served on numerous boards and committees, including the Westminster College board for many years.
The list of awards and honors bestowed throughout his life is long and impressive, far too lengthy to cite here. But it included such distinctions as a rare appointment by Great Britain's Queen Elizabeth II in 1963 to the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, a "Giant in Our City" recognition by the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce and induction into the Beehive Hall of Fame.
Wallace denied being a "sentimentalist," saying that he was born with the genes for community service, something for which he could not take credit. Yet a common thread in all the variety of his life was compassion for the sick and needy.
In any event, John M. Wallace was one of Utah's most productive citizens. The entire state will miss him greatly.