December 18, 2014
Dragons lose icon in Wallace
The SUNY Cortland athletic program lost a beloved icon on Tuesday when long-time coach and teacher Bob “Sparky” Wallace passed away. He was 87 years old.
Even after he retired, Wallace was a fixture at Red Dragons sporting events and continued to be one of the school’s biggest supporters. He was also a whiz on local summer softball diamonds in his prime.
Wallace came to work at 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. He served as the school’s head baseball coach for 25 years from 1958-82 and head softball coach for two seasons from 1984-85.
A 1953 Cortland graduate, Wallace also was a football assistant coach for 15 seasons in addition to one-year stints as head coach of men’s basketball (1957-58) and junior varsity football (1972) and assistant coach for baseball (1957), junior varsity men’s basketball (1964-65) and freshmen men’s basketball (1956-57).
A four-time SUNY Athletic Conference Baseball Coach of the Year, his teams posted a combined record of 366-207-3 and won 10 league titles and two ECAC championships. baseball field and the SUNYAC’s annual baseball Most Valuable Player award are named in his honor.
As softball coach, he led the Red Dragons to a New York State title and an appearance in the NCAA Division III Softball World Series in 1985.
Wallace and his wife Sally Yaeger Wallace ‘53, who coached softball, women’s golf, women’s basketball and women’s swimming during her tenure at Cortland, were both inducted into the Cortland C-Club Hall of Fame in 1979. Following their retirements they traveled across the country as alumni ambassadors for the College. Sally passed away in 2008.
The SUNY Cortland Alumni Association acknowledged Wallace for his many contributions to alumni and the College with an “Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Award” in 2003 and in 2011 honored him as one of its Distinguished Alumni, the organization’s highest honor. He also served on the C-Club Board of Directors until his passing.
“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 noted in a 2011 SUNY Cortland Columns story. “I can truthfully say that I have enjoyed every day of this association.”
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.
Wallace initiated the Baseball Alumni Weekend during his tenure as the College’s baseball coach, a highly anticipated tradition that has occurred every year since 1976.
Wallace is survived by his brother, Richard of Cortland; former sister-in-law Betty, of Syracuse; his nephews Bob of Miami and Jeff of New York City; and nieces Jen of Seattle, Nikki of Grand Junction, Colo., and Loni Kantor of LaFayette.
A memorial service for Bob will be held in the spring. Details on that event will be announced in January.
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