vintage black and white picture of large group at a party and a caption readin Class of 1971 50 Year Reunion

Ray Wallace ’71: Looking Back 50 Years on the Chapman Experience

Ray Wallace came from humble beginnings. The son of a Disciples of Christ Pastor, he selected Chapman University in part because he received a discount from the Disciples organization, which in the 1960s and 1970s was still a major factor of the Chapman College community. Ray shared that his days at Chapman were filled with learning, but also in finding part time jobs. He recalled in particular his experiences with Professor Olsen, who taught ceramics classes, calling her the original “hippy free-spirit,” which was a welcome relief from the serious nature of what was going on beyond the grounds of Chapman College in those days.

To get a job at Disneyland, Ray was required to cut his shoulder length hair, which he did reluctantly. Later, he became a part-time school bus driver for the El Dorado School for the Gifted. He drove throughout Orange County to pick up incredibly intelligent young students and transport them to the El Modena neighborhood where the school was based. He was able to work as a driver for three full years, which coincided with the completion of his studies at Chapman.

“It was a cacophony of abject tumult and chaos,” Ray stated. “We literally faced conflict at every avenue of our society during those years.” With individual groups fighting for their freedoms, the Peaceniks vs. Hawks, Black Power and racial equality, women’s issues, and so much more, it was a tense time for many, especially in conservative Orange County.

“Your loyalty back then was not to the institution of anything, not to religion, not to Chapman, but rather a sense of loyalty to your tribe,” said Ray. “It was more a matter of who were you willing to walk alongside and fight for.”

While Ray concentrated on religious studies during his education, his focus was on intellectual value rather than actual practice. He recalled two professors of religious studies, Dr. Fred Francis and Dr. Willis Fisher, who didn’t necessarily make an immediate impression on him, but the way they carried themselves and how they thought, behaved and acted towards others became important models for Ray in his adult years.

He said, “All things then still seem to be issues for today, and the notion of relating, serving and defending one’s tribe is still a construct of living in our society.” After Chapman, Ray attended Theology school, was part of a touring band in Southern California and, intrigued with South Asian culture, lived in Pakistan for a few years. During these years, Ray was beset by some personal challenges which he overcame before going on to serve more than 30 years in higher education at Cal State University, specializing in International Education. Ray retired from his career two years ago and has spent time enjoying travel.

Ray looks forward to driving himself to Chapman University next month to become one of the newest inductees of the Chapman University 50 Year Club, being honored at a special luncheon as part of Homecoming events on November 5 & 6. Ray said that he is interested in seeing many of his 1971 classmates to see if he remembers them, or if they remember him. He shared that he looks forward to seeing the character development of his peers in terms of how society shaped them following the wildly tumultuous years of the early 1970s. Ray will also have the poignant opportunity to visit the Chapman University Fish Interfaith Center, Columbarium and Garden, where the ashes of both of his parents were laid to rest many years ago.

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Staci Dumoski

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