CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Earlier this year, several of Betty Joe Wallace’s friends and former students gathered in the Austin Peay State University Morgan University Center for a special memorial dinner honoring the late history professor. On that winter evening, under the warm lights of the center’s ballroom, attendees heard familiar stories about this trailblazing woman who helped found both the African-American Studies and the Women’s and Gender Studies programs at Austin Peay.
The event was part of a fundraising campaign to create a Betty Joe Wallace Lecture Series at Austin Peay. John Chapman, Wallace’s husband, knew his wife would have been pleased with the honor, but he also remembered something they’d talked about before she passed away. A few months after that memorial dinner, Chapman contacted Kris Phillips, executive director for University Advancement, and told him one of Wallace’s last requests—she wanted to help students from her home in Stewart County earn a college education.
Chapman promised his wife he’d honor her wish, and last month he made a significant gift to the University, establishing the Betty Joe Wallace Memorial Endowment Scholarship.
“She taught here for over 50 years, and she was always really interested in the students,” Chapman said. “She never had a moments regret for teaching, and this (endowing a scholarship) is what she wanted to do.”
The new scholarship will be awarded annually to a graduate of Stewart County High School who has at least a 2.75 GPA and demonstrates financial need. The scholarship’s selection committee will give preference to applicants majoring in history and general studies.
“She came from Stewart County and was always proud of that fact and proud of the students from Stewart County,” Chapman said.
Wallace inspired several generations of students during her five decades at Austin Peay, and she also dedicated herself to making the University more inclusive. In 1968, she chaired a committee that looked at adding courses in African-American studies to the campus, and in 1978, she developed Austin Peay’s first women’s studies course. She went on to help found and serve as director of both the African-American Studies and the Women’s and Gender Studies programs. She won the APSU Alumni Association’s Distinguished Professor Award in 1989, and she spent much of her career training hundreds of the area’s history and social studies teachers from 1974-2003.
“I knew of Betty Joe Wallace from my days as an Austin Peay student, and she was every bit as impressive and inspiring as people say she was,” Phillips said. “I’m happy Mr. Chapman chose to honor his late wife in this way because, with an endowed scholarship, it means her name will be associated with Austin Peay in perpetuity.”
For information on how to support this scholarship or the lecture series, contact the APSU Office of Advancement at www.apsu.edu/advancement.