Deeply rooted values and mission lead to collaboration
The Rensselaerville Effect by Tim W. Jackson
Jim Wallace is a Washington County native. Back in 1963 when he was in elementary school, his father, Bob, became the maintenance supervisor at Emory & Henry College, so the family packed up and moved from Glade Spring to Emory and lived in campus housing.
“I had a very interesting perspective on what college was all about having observed and
interacted with so many E&H students and staff through that experience, and that was very rewarding,” Wallace said.
Wallace (’75) graduated from Emory & Henry, received a master’s degree from the University
of Tennessee, and spent his professional career in Southwest Virginia. Now he has returned to Emory & Henry to serve as practitioner in residence through a partnership between Emory & Henry’s Appalachian Center for Civic Life and The Rensselaerville Institute (TRI), a think tank from Delmar, N. Y., for which he also will serve as a senior fellow.
Wallace’s relationship with TRI first began in 1997 when he worked for the Virginia Department
of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). He attended a conference in Washington, D.C., where he heard then TRI President Hal Williams and officials from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs discuss a pilot program being undertaken in Texas based on TRI’s Small Town Environment Program (STEP).
“My boss at DHCD wanted to take a look at undertaking a similar program in Virginia,”
Wallace said. “After a trip he and I took to Texas to observe their program more closely, we decided to try it in Virginia. We called our program Self-Help Virginia, and it turned out to be very successful. To date, 46 Self-Help Virginia projects across the Commonwealth have been completed.”
Wallace said that overseeing the Self-Help Virginia program was the most rewarding aspect of
his 22-year tenure with the DHCD. Hal Williams, now semi-retired and a senior fellow at TRI, wanted to reinvigorate the STEP program. He contacted Wallace about doing it and also advancing the principals of a program known as Community Sparkplugs.
“That conversation ultimately led to the collaboration with Emory & Henry somewhat by
happenstance,” Wallace said. “We were looking for college students to do some initial research this
6 / WINTER 2014 / E&H Alumni Magazine
Published on May 16, 2014