Unsung Heroes 2015: Harvey Wallace

Harvey Wallace

BY PATRICIA CORRIGAN, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

Helping others, something he learned early on by observing his father, is now just part of who Harvey Wallace is.

“My dad, who ran the warehouse for Sands Drug, a chain of retail drugstores, was a volunteer fireman in University City and a member of the Jewish War Veterans. Though he didn’t have money, he always helped people out,” Wallace said.

“That’s how I learned that you give back. Over the years it became obvious to me that those of us who can, should. It’s natural. It’s fulfilling. Now it’s just part of who I am and what I do.”

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Exactly what does Wallace do?

In their nomination letter, Cathy Goldsticker, a partner at Brown Smith Wallace, and Sandy Jaffe, a friend and client of Wallace’s and a past Unsung Hero himself, wrote: “Harvey has contributed to growth in the local Jewish community as well as not-for-profits and businesses throughout the St. Louis area. He selflessly gives of his time, money and talents to organizations, clients, friends and family members. In doing so, he inspires those around him to do the same.”

Wallace has served on the board of directors for the Jewish Community Center since 1988. Since 2002, he has been actively involved as a member of the board of directors for the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, where he currently serves as the vice-chairman for the 2014 and 2015 Annual Campaign. He is a former board member for Jewish Family and Children’s Service.

A devoted grandfather, Wallace has served on the board of directors at the Magic House in Kirkwood since 2011 and was board chair from 2013 to 2014. “Harvey has a big heart when it comes to being supportive of helping children and he has a wonderful leadership style,” said Magic House CEO Beth Fitzgerald. “The fact that he is a grandparent makes a big difference to people on the board because when we see the Magic House through children’s eyes, we see joy and wonder.”

Wallace also is a supporter of and board treasurer for the Wyman Center, an organization that “enables teens to lead successful lives and build strong communities.” He serves on the community advisory board for St. Louis Public Radio and is on the board for the Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

How did Wallace come to be involved in so many good causes?

“I have difficulty saying ‘no’ because it’s such an honor to be asked,” Wallace said, laughing. “It’s one thing to be asked for money but when you are asked to participate, told you have something of value to contribute, it’s difficult to say no. I am very fortunate that people have asked me to get involved.” 

Wallace added that he also has learned by example. “I have had the good fortune to work with two clients who became friends — the late S. Lee Kling and the late Marvin Wool — both philanthropic people,” he said. “When you rub elbows with people like that, good things rub off.  Both men influenced me a great deal.”

The only child of Mary and Sydney Wallace, the first volunteer job Wallace took on was as a coach for his older son’s soccer team at the Olivette Athletic Association. “That was just a natural thing to do, sharing my passion for sports with my kid,” he said. “Around the same time, I began to think I needed to get more involved in the community.”

Shortly after Jeff Smith started a public accounting firm in 1972, Wallace joined him. “One of the ways in the late ‘70s to grow a business was to get out in the community, and because of that I ended up in a couple of volunteer positions, including one at Covenant House, though I don’t recall my exact role,” Wallace said.

Today, Brown Smith Wallace has more than 225 employees. The company supports a number of local events including the Jewish Book Festival, various charitable golf tournaments and fundraisers, including the gala at Wyman Center. 

The firm also donates business consulting services to area entrepreneurs through Gateway Venture Mentoring Service and Arch Grants. Last year the St. Louis Business Journal honored Brown Smith Wallace with an Innovation Award for contributing more than 500 hours per year of pro bono work to startup companies.

 “The way I see it is that I am very fortunate to have had opportunities to give back, and I have seized them. I hope the organizations I am involved with are maybe a tiny bit better off,” Wallace said. “And I’m not finished yet.”