Meet James Wallace, SOJC Class of 1950 – foreign correspondent, art collector and philanthropist. Wallace and his wife Haya endowed the SOJC Chair in Journalism named in his honor. Professor Peter Laufer is the inaugural James Wallace Chair.
James Wallace was born in Sioux City, Iowa, and was raised in Beaverton, Oregon. He served in the Coast Guard during World War II. After graduating from the University of Oregon he reported from around the world, first for the Wall Street Journal and during most of his career for U.S. News & World Report. His datelines ranged from Moscow to Peking to Saigon, from Havana (Fidel Castro famously expelled him from Cuba for his reporting) to capitals throughout Latin America.
When they reminisce about Wallace, his friends and colleagues remember their era as a heyday for foreign correspondents, a period Wallace enjoyed with panache.
Thinking back to those days before instant global communication and ubiquitous audio and video recorders, colleague Joseph Benham noted Wallace’s “phenomenal” memory. “He rarely displayed a notebook or tape recorder during interviews, which encouraged those being questioned to relax and reveal things they probably wouldn’t have said had he been recording or writing them.”
In 1975 Wallace reported in U.S. News & World Report that Russians often respond to awkward circumstances with vodka and “platitudes like the toasts to mir i druzhba.” Given his reputation as a bon vivant, it’s easy to imagine Wallace reacting to hostile foreign officials with his own toasts to “peace and friendship.”
James Wallace retired from the U.S. News & World Report in the early 1990s, moved to suburban Washington, D.C., and was elected president of the Cosmos Club. Wallace was nominated for membership in the club by Alpheus W. Jessup who noted, “He is a lover of the arts: ballet, painting, sculpture, and Oriental antiques, of which he is a museum-class collector.” James and Haya Wallace donated their collection to the University of Oregon’s Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.
Another portion of the Wallace legacy is the bequest in the form of art objects and artifacts the Wallace family collected while while on foreign assignment for U.S. News & World Report. This extraordinary collection of Asian art is now part of the permanent collection at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. In addition, they established the James and Haya Wallace Acquisition Fund which has allowed the JSMA to acquire works of art by Binh Danh, Ik-joong Kang, Tetsuya Noda, Tanaka Ryohei as well as several Japanese decorative art objects.
James N. Wallace died at the age of 76 in 2004; his wife Haya died two years later. At the Cosmos Club memorial to Wallace, John Gibson said of his friend and the profession they shared, “You do not make much money, but you meet such interesting people.” James Wallace combined journalist with interesting and his legacy lives on at the School of Journalism and Communication, where he began his career.