From coast to coast and beyond the memories poured in. He was a mentor, a pastor, a teacher and a colleague. He was a champion for peace and justice, who held an unwavering spotlight on the devastation of domestic violence and substance abuse. But most of all, they said, he was a friend.
Richard Wallace, ’96, associate professor of pastoral care, died in his home on Tuesday, Aug. 30, of a heart attack. The seminary community, friends, colleagues, former students–all were stunned to hear the news. They sent their condolences to the family and shared their disbelief and grief through Richard Wallace’s online memory book www.luthersem.edu/memorybook/wallace.
“Gentle, gracious and grace-filled,” was how Robert Albers described Wallace in his tribute at a memorial service at Luther Seminary on Sept. 29. Albers, former professor of pastoral care at Luther, was Wallace’s doctoral advisor. “He brought a unique perspective to the field of pastoral care in having his feet firmly planted in two cultures, namely that of his African American heritage as well as that of the dominant culture… Most noteworthy in the midst of his academic accomplishments was that he never wavered in his own conviction that his primary identity was that of a pastor. His students and parishioners will attest to this fact.”
His gentle compassion didn’t mean he was a pushover, said Charles Amjad-Ali, Martin Luther King, Jr., Professor of Justice and Christian Community, at the memorial service. “…added to his gentle and considerate side was a moral timbre which never shied away from taking a stand and putting his conviction into praxis for justice and change. He believed with Martin Luther King that ‘…this is what Jesus expects.We must combine the toughness of the serpent and the softness of the dove, a tough mind and a tender heart.'”(The Strength of Love, 1963)
“He will be missed sorely for he was one of the voices of sanity, balance and reason which reminded us of the task which continues to be ours in the seminary, the church and the world,” Amjad-Ali said.
Wallace joined the Luther Seminary faculty in 1999 after serving as director at the Lutheran Theological Center in Atlanta (LTCA) since 1997. His experience in pastoral care centered on his interest in youth, teaching and community, with a special focus on counseling people affected by substance abuse and sexual abuse. An ELCA-ordained pastor,Wallace served parishes in Minnesota, California and Georgia. He taught at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Trinity Lutheran Seminary and Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary.
Wallace is survived by his wife, Beverly, his children,William, Erica, Sarah and Yolanda, son-in-law Jesse Hightower, and grandchildren Jaylen and Erin.