Skip to Main Content

David W. Wallace, 1924-2017, generous and loyal benefactor

Medicine@Yale, 2018 - Feb Mar


David W. Wallace, a former corporate attorney, businessman, and philanthropist who was a longtime supporter of the School of Medicine and Yale University, died at home in Greenwich, Connecticut, on Dec. 24, 2017. He was 93.

David Wallace and his wife, Jean McLean Wallace, have donated more than $33 million to Yale, about half of which—$16.5 million—was used to endow six professorships at the School of Medicine. Their generous gifts place them among a select group of supporters of the school.

“David has a special place of honor because he was such an enthusiastic and committed donor to the medical school, says Robert J. Alpern, M.D., dean and Ensign Professor of Medicine. “David was proud of the fact that he had given so many endowed chairs to the medical school, which have enabled us to attract outstanding faculty and to provide them with the resources and intellectual freedom to pursue innovative research.”

Wallace understood the financial challenges that research entails and the need for philanthropic support to fuel scientific discovery. “To have medical progress, you have to feed it money. It’s the nature of the beast. Running labs, doing surveys, it’s all expensive,” Wallace said in 2006. “But I think we’re at a point in medicine where we’re making leaps and bounds.”

For Hugh S. Taylor, M.D., chair of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences, this includes developing a new test and therapies for endometriosis, discovering environmental agents that can affect fetal development, understanding the effects of cross-gender hormone therapy, and demonstrating the benefits of transdermal estrogens on sexual function in menopausal women. Taylor, who holds the Anita O’Keeffe Young Professorship, established in honor of a friend of the Wallaces to promote women’s health, says, “The Wallaces’ support enabled me to devote time to all aspects of women’s health, not only delivering care to patients but also being an advocate and doing novel research that I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise, bringing new understanding of women’s health diseases.”

Lucian V. Del Priore, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Science, who joined Yale in 2016, says that the Robert R. Young Professorship endowed by the Wallaces was instrumental in his recruitment, allowing for protected research time, as well as time to mentor medical students who are interested in ophthalmology. “We need a generation of physicians who can push the envelope,” he says, noting that the vast majority of his patients benefit from advances that have been developed during the course of his career. “We have to train people who can think outside the box and approach problems in a new way.” Medical students under his guidance have conducted research on the thinning of the retina and the generation of stem cells from skin biopsies in patients with macular degeneration, and the use of medical marijuana in patients with poorly controlled glaucoma.

Wallace’s ties with Yale date back to his undergraduate days, when he resided at Branford College. His studies were interrupted by World War II, during which he served as an officer in the 1st Infantry Division and was awarded the Purple Heart. He received his bachelor’s degree from Yale’s School of Engineering in 1948, but quickly decided he was more suited to the law, graduating from Harvard Law School in 1951.

Reflecting back on a career that included stints at Allegheny Corporation, United Brands (now Chiquita Banana), Piper Aircraft, Bangor-Punta, and Todd Shipyards, Wallace put his time at Yale above them all, calling it his greatest achievement. Just prior to his 50th year reunion, Wallace and his wife donated $9 million to renovate Branford College, whose Gothic-style York Street wing is now called Wallace Hall. In 2004, he was awarded a Yale Medal, the highest award presented by the Association of Yale Alumni. “David loved Yale from the moment he arrived as an undergraduate,” says Jean Wallace. “It was his pleasure and honor to be able to support both the university at large and the School of Medicine.”

Professorships endowed by the Wallace family

Jean and David W. Wallace Professor of Comparative Medicine
Tamas L. Horvath, D.V.M., Ph.D., chair, Department of Comparative Medicine; professor of neuroscience and of obstetrics, gynecology & reproductive sciences

David W. Wallace Professorship
Now vacant. Most recently held, until 2016, by Ruslan M. Medzhitov, Ph.D., Sterling Professor of Immunobiology

Fergus F. Wallace Professor of Genetics
Antonio J. Giraldez, Ph.D., chair, Department of Genetics

Jean McLean Wallace Professor of Pediatrics
George Lister, M.D., professor of cellular and molecular physiology

Robert R. Young Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Lucian V. Del Priore, M.D., Ph.D., chair, Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Science

Anita O’Keeffe Young Professor of Women’s Health
Hugh S. Taylor, M.D., chair, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences