MC alum now proudly works in nonprofit sector serving the city he lovesDecember 07, 2023

The image to use for this article. Listing image managed through RSS tab. J Don Wallace standing in McCormick Gallery in the Allison Fine Arts Building on the main MC campus.

J Don Wallace has called Midland home for all but the first year or two of his life, and he now works to help make his hometown a better place by serving as the director of Donor Relations for United Way Midland.

“I have great friends in Midland,” Wallace said.  “I really can’t think of a better place to live.”  

Wallace and his family moved to Midland in the mid-1970s when his father was discharged from the U.S. Navy.  His father took a position in sales, and his mother worked for Texaco for the next 30 years.  J Don attended St. Ann’s School from kindergarten through 6th grade, Midland Christian School in 7th and 8th grade and then Midland Freshman School and Midland High School (MHS) where he graduated in 1991.  He played tennis at MHS and was an avid drama and art student.  

After high school graduation, he chose to stay in Midland and attend Midland College.

“I got a job the summer after I graduated from high school working as a runner for a law firm,” Wallace recalled.  “I had no desire to go to a large university, and quite frankly, I don’t think I would have done well.  I liked the idea of staying close to home and taking advantage of Midland College scholarships.

“I continued to work as a runner for the law firm throughout the time I attended Midland College.  In fact, it just so happened that one of their clients was Midland College.  I remember that the attorneys and paralegals at the law firm would ask me to take documents to Midland College officials on my way to class.  That’s how I met a lot of the Midland College senior-level administrators at the time.  I would just walk right into their office and hand them whatever document I was transporting from the law firm.  I suspect other people who worked at the college were thinking, ‘Who does that kid think he is?  He’s a student, and he just can’t walk right into the president’s or vice president’s office!’  I met some great people like David Daniel, who was the president at the time, and Camal Dakil, who was the vice president of Student Services.”

Wallace said that he stayed at Midland College as long as he could and took all of his lower-division courses.  He then transferred to the University of Texas Permian Basin (UTPB) in 1994 while continuing to work as the law firm’s runner.  He graduated in December 1996 with a bachelor’s degree earning a double major in Political Science and Communications and a minor in Speech.  

“I probably would have continued to work for the law firm, but they actually fired me,” Wallace joked.  “They told me that I couldn’t be a runner for the rest of my life, and it was time to find a grown-up job.  However, I didn’t want a grown-up job, so I enrolled in graduate school at Texas Tech and moved to Lubbock working toward a master’s degree in Communications Studies.”

Unfortunately, Wallace’s graduate school studies were cut short when his mother became terminally ill in the summer of 1997, and he moved back to Midland to care for his mother.  

In September 1997, Wallace returned to Midland College, but this time as an employee working in the Media Services department.

“When I started working at Midland College, I became friends with some of the great faculty who had taught me six years earlier—people like Charles Simmons, Jerry Mills, Ty Tindall, Rebecca Watson, Jerry Franks and Carol Bailey, just to name a few.  Another friend is Dr. Terry Gilmour [Midland College Government professor and director of the Honors Program].  We both started working at the college about the same time and are still great friends.”

In 2002, Wallace was promoted to director of Media Services.  In this capacity, he not only oversaw audio/visual activities for the College, but also established the permanent art collection at Midland College and administered McCormick Gallery.  When Dollye Ballenger donated funds for the Dollye Neal Chapel that currently sits on the Midland College campus, Wallace was instrumental in helping her choose the location for the chapel, and, along with his other assignments, he assumed administration of the chapel after it was built.  During this time, he also continued his graduate studies online through Kent State University where he received a master’s degree in Communications in 2013.  Later that same year, he became director of Alumni Relations and Development at Midland College.

“Dr. Steve Thomas, who was then Midland College president, wanted a former Midland College student to lead alumni efforts,” Wallace explained.  “However, even though I spent three years as a student at Midland College, I never got a degree from Midland College—I just took as many classes as I could before transferring to UTPB.  So, when I became director of Alumni Relations, I felt that I really needed to have an associate degree from Midland College.  I remember thinking, ‘No problem.  I’ll just make an appointment with the college registrar to get my transcript evaluated, and then she’ll give me an associate degree.’  To my surprise, she told me I wasn’t eligible for an associate degree because I lacked a PE credit!  So, I took a PE class for a semester, and then in 2014, I finally received an associate degree!  I proudly hang the diploma from Midland College on the wall with my bachelor’s and master’s degree diplomas.”

Wallace left Midland College in 2016 and became director of Media and Communications for First Presbyterian Church, and then from January 2019 until September 2020, he worked in owner relations at Endeavor Energy until he assumed his current position at United Way Midland where he administers planned giving activities and donor stewardship.

During his spare time, Wallace researches and catalogues Midland’s architectural history.  

“I first became interested in the architecture of Frank Welch,” Wallace explained.  “He designed local landmarks including the Midland Community Theatre’s Cole Theater, the old Midland Center, the original Blakemore Planetarium and Thomas Gallery at the Museum of the Southwest.  He also designed many homes in Midland that were built from the 1960s through the 1980s.

“Recently, I’ve found myself interested in other architects who designed homes during this time, people like J. J. Black and O’Neill Ford.  Some of the homes they designed are now being leveled or renovated drastically, so I’m trying to preserve the original drawings, and I even meet with some of the original owners who have great stories about working with those architects.  I remember all those wonderful homes when I was growing up, so I guess it’s a way of preserving great childhood memories along with a piece of Midland’s history.  

“I love Midland—not just it’s history but also the fact that the city has a promising future.  It’s a great place!”

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