Vanderbilt is planning a special Hall of Fame weekend for September 12-13. A series of events will unfold over those two days, capped by the Induction Banquet Friday evening, September 12 and the Class of 2008 being presented at halftime of Saturday's Rice football game. VUcommodores.com will spotlight one inductee per day leading up to the Hall of Fame weekend.
Perry Wallace, a 1970 graduate of Vanderbilt and a member of the inaugural first class of the Vanderbilt Athletic Hall of Fame, would have become a premier Hall of Fame candidate even if he didn't make Southeastern Conference history by becoming the SEC's first African-American basketball player. Wallace was a star student-athlete who went on to an outstanding career in law and education.
Wallace received his Bachelor of Engineering in Electrical Engineering and Engineering Mathematics, and earned his J.D. degree in 1975 from the School of Law at Columbia University. He currently serves as a professor of law at The American University in Washington, D.C., a post he has held since 1991.
Wallace talked with the Athletics Communications office about his induction, his experience at Vanderbilt, and how that experience has shaped him into the man he is today.
What excites you most about being inducted into the first class of the Hall of Fame?
Well, being selected to the Hall of Fame is an honor in itself and to be selected in the first class is really special. It is an honor to be thought about with the people in this first class.
Did it ever cross your mind that you’d be inducted into the first class?
No it didn’t…the general thing, is that I don’t spend my time thinking about things like that. I just think it’s kind of an affirmation of the kind of person that I would like to try to be.
How does this rank as a top honor?
Right up there at the top. Obviously, it’s right up there with having my jersey retired and being elected to the Tennessee Sports HOF. An honor is a great thing anyway, but these things are really at the top. You don’t really ever forget the honor and you don’t forget the ceremony, and it’s a pleasure to be in this first class.
Are you attending the ceremony on September 12 and are you bringing any family with you?
Absolutely, I’ll be in town with some family. This is really a family event, and I think it’s for the families. A lot of the older people will try to inspire the younger people on that night.
What was your best memory at Vanderbilt?
I guess I remember the quality and the opportunity. It has always been a great university, and it keeps getting better and better. But, the quality and the opportunity. The opportunity both to give and to get. The historical situation I was put in was certainly a big challenge. It’s sort of like business. You make an investment, and it was a huge return on the investment. It was an opportunity to get to a high quality place where my life, and my education, and my exposure to things propelled me to what I’m doing today. And at the same time, I was able to take some good messages and it gave me the space to share those messages.
What has athletics meant to your life?
Athletics has been one of the most powerful influences in my life, that and family. It ranks with people from the church and my teachers and all of the people along the way. But, not only is it exciting, and it is exciting, but it’s a great place to work on your model on how your going to live. You get the challenge. You have to compete, you have to prepare, you have to have a certain attitude, you have to have all of that in sports. You have to come out here in life and do the same things. I’m really grateful because it gave me the opportunity to get in there and to practice how I’m going to live - with some real competition, because I had to get in there and fight. I had to figure out how to play and to compete, and I lifted almost every lesson from my participation in sports into my life and my career.
Do you think participating in athletics helps you more than someone who hasn’t participated in athletics?
This might sound like a politically crafted answer, but it’s the honest truth. People find different vehicles for crafting themselves as quality people and quality professionals. I wouldn’t want to offend people who haven’t played sports, but I’m just saying that there are powerful vehicles. Sports is a powerful one, but it could be something else like dancing ballet or playing the guitar. A lot of people have had experiences that have helped them later on. I just think sports is a very powerful experience.