Robert Wallace has more than a baseball field in his honor. The former SUNY Cortland faculty member and coach has hundreds of former students scattered across the country that he reaches regularly through email.
“I feel like I am one of Bob’s children, even though he and his wife, Sally, didn’t have any of their own,” wrote James Sellars ’59. “I am sure if you were to poll his ex-players, they would agree with me. He, to this day, is in contact with us all.”
Wallace initiated the Baseball Alumni Weekend during his tenure as the College’s baseball coach, a highly anticipated tradition that returns for its 36th edition this year. Former players come from as far away as California to attend the annual get-together.
“His email list, his annual Baseball Alumni Weekend reunion and his attendance at alumni functions around the country have enabled graduates to keep their Cortland memories alive,” wrote the anonymous person who nominated Wallace for the Distinguished Alumni Award.
Prior to attending SUNY Cortland, Wallace resided in Syracuse and served in the U.S. Navy in 1945 and 1946. He taught physical education and coached four sports at Painted Post High School from 1953 until 1956.
He came to SUNY Cortland in 1956 and served as a member of the Physical Education Department faculty until his retirement in 1985, when he was designated assistant professor emeritus of physical education.
“The College provided me with the skills, both academic and athletic, to enjoy what is considered to be a very successful career in teaching and coaching,” Wallace wrote. “I can truthfully say that I have enjoyed every day of this association.”
Wallace coached four sports during his SUNY Cortland tenure: baseball for 25 years; football for 19 years; basketball for three years; and softball for two years.
A four-time SUNYAC Baseball Coach of the Year, his teams won 10 SUNY Athletic Conference Championships and two Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Championships in baseball. He won the New York State Tournament and advanced to the Division III College Softball World Series in his second year as softball coach.
Perhaps the greatest statistic tied to Wallace’s career is the graduation rate of his baseball players.
“In 25 years, we didn’t have one baseball player who flunked out of school,” he said. “Not too many schools can make such a claim.”
Wallace was inducted into the C-Club Hall of Fame in 1979 for his contributions to SUNY Cortland athletics. In 1996, with the approval of the SUNY Board of Trustees, the College held a ceremony to name its baseball field in Wallace’s honor.
“I probably played for dozens of coaches during my baseball career but I never had one I liked and respected as I did Bob Wallace,” wrote James Spadinger ’63. “He was a fierce competitor and we fielded superior teams during all of my years there, but he also loved the game, treated us respectfully and fostered the same kind of respect for opponents, officials and the game itself.”
In 2003, the SUNY Cortland Alumni Association acknowledged his many contributions to alumni and the College with an “Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Award.”
Following his retirement, Wallace and his late wife, Sally Yaeger Wallace ’53, traveled across the country as alumni ambassadors for the College.
“Bob Wallace brought so much more to the table than athletic or coaching ability,” wrote Spadinger. “He seemed to be the essence of the family spirit that made Cortland so special.”