When Jerry M. Wallace joined Campbell in 1972 as an adjunct sociology professor, he had no intention of ever becoming the university’s president. That held true even after he became the vice president for academic affairs and provost. But when Campbell’s third president, Norman Wiggins, fell ill, the Board of Trustees asked Wallace to step into the presidency. He accepted the position but told trustees he’d stay in the position for no longer than five years. The five years stretched into 12.
“Opportunities came and Campbell needed continuity in leadership,” says Wallace, who steps down from the presidency June 30.
Through a series of interviews posted on Campbell.edu throughout the year, Wallace has talked about how his childhood, college and preaching experiences influenced him and shaped his presidency. In the fifth installment below, he talks about the past 12 years as president, including some of the best and hardest decisions he made.
- Part 1: On finishing well
- Part 2: On his childhood and college experience
- Part 3: On being a preacher and teacher
- Part 4: On the move to academia leadership
- Part 5: On his time as president
- Part 6: On saying good-bye
- Dr. Wallace on his family — and his family on him
Part 5: On his time as president
What is it like to be Campbell’s president?
The day starts and the day goes on. The day goes until you go to bed. That’s just not being in the office or attending events. The electronic age has made us all be at work anytime we want to be at work or have to be at work. The latest email can come between 11 and 12 o’clock at night or at 1 or 4 in the morning. The big thing about the day of the life of the presidency is that it’s continuous.
What has been your priority as president?
To do everything we could as a university to bloom where we are planted — and that is in central North Carolina — and to help the area in terms of educating people who could meet the pressing needs of the area. So the why of the medical school, for example, is because around Campbell and east of Campbell there is a huge need for health care for underserved people. We believe that we could address that need, so we established a medical school.
What has been the biggest challenge as president?
Balancing what ought to be done and what can be done. There are many more options than choices and what you can possibly do. So you have to stay focused on the task, on the chosen opportunities.
What have you worried about the most as president?
That there may be a need and opportunity for Campbell that we would miss doing — that there would be something that we miss making happen.
The hardest decision you made?
Moving the law school to downtown Raleigh. I very much miss the law school here. I enjoyed being with the law students and the law faculty, and I miss them. I regret the sense of the disappointment of the citizens of the county and the alumni, and we still face that from time to time. Campbell law graduates who graduated from Buies Creek have deep affection for this place, not just the law school. They came to love the Creek. That’s where their heart is. But other than the emotional hurt of it not being present in Buies Creek, it was a very wise decision.
Decision you’re most proud of?
Having a major part in the establishment of the pharmacy school. That might surprise some people, but that’s what it is because everything grew out of that.
The day I was privileged to greet the charter class of the pharmacy school, I felt something big was happening. But as I look back on it, I know it now. Establishing the pharmacy school and what it has meant to Campbell was the most important thing that has happened. I don’t mean to demean anything else, but ever since that first day I saw the faces of pharmacy students arrive at Campbell, we’ve been on a racetrack.
What will you miss about the presidency?
The daily interaction with my colleagues that I have come to appreciate and respect and have deep affection for.
What will you not miss?
I will not miss budget time.