wallace smiling

It’s Never Too Late To Go Back To School

Robert Michael Wallace, a 80-year-old Tennessee native, decided to return to school after his wife passed away. Having spent most of his life caring for others and building a career in banking and finance, Wallace found himself at a turning point after his wife's death.

A firm believer in lifelong learning, he enrolled at Colorado Christian University to earn his Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies, choosing to study online, to be closer to his grandsons who attend the Air Force Academy.

But it didn’t stop there, read more about Robert Michale Wallace and how his story demonstrates that it is indeed never too late to go back to school.

Original Article published in CCU’s Beyond Magazine

It was time.

After nearly half a century of marriage, raising children, and building a career, Robert Michael Wallace knew things were getting ready to change.

“(Connie) and I were married in 1977,” he said. “And in 1979, she was diagnosed with (multiple sclerosis). We stuck it out together for 46 years, but in November of 2017, I knew she was going to die soon. And she did at home, comfortably and quietly with me.”

At 75 years old, Wallace’s world changed and not for the first time.

A native of Tennessee, Wallace emigrated from a town – Possum Trot, Tennessee – (that at the time didn’t have running water or electricity, let alone phone lines) and relocated to California during the Kennedy era. However, setting up shop in tiny Bishop, California a few years later as a banker kept him connected to his small-town roots.

For more than four decades, Wallace forged a career in banking and finance, while building a family that today includes two sons, three daughters, eight grandchildren, and so many great-grandchildren that Wallace jokes he lost count after 10.

But the loss of his wife, his friend, his partner in life left him reeling.

“I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life,” he said. “I’m very healthy, particularly for my age. I’m not the type to sit on the front porch and watch my dogs scratch their fleas. I’ve always been big on learning and curious about a lot of things. Most of my life, I’ve been taking care of other people: my wife, my children, my employees, and my parents. I’ve never really had a chance to do something just for me, and that’s what I’ve set out to do these past five years. Finish what I set out to do when I was 18. Finish my education and use it for good and the enlightenment of the gospel.”

Wallace had tried to earn a bachelor’s in agriculture from Cal Polytechnic University before state budget cuts shuttered the program and life had always seemed to get in the way of going back.

Not anymore.

He moved to Florissant, Colorado in order to be closer to two of his grandsons who attend the Air Force Academy, and at a youthful 75 years old, Wallace enrolled at Colorado Christian University to earn his Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies 100% online through the College of Adult and Graduate Studies.

“I don’t want my life to be wasted,” he said. “The hole I have that I want to fill is to live a full life for the sake of Jesus Christ. There’s never enough time or enough ability to learn all you could learn about the gospel.”

Wallace has studied Old Testament history, narrative and the law, the Synoptic Gospels, John’s writings and the epistles, systematic theology, Christian doctrine, and more.

“Mike is a walking, talking example of a servant leader who is not ready to sit down and relax in retirement,” said Dr. John C. Mrazek, lead affiliate faculty for CCU’s Executive Leadership in Christian Ministry program. “He is more excited now than ever about the chance to mentor the next generation of Christian leaders. Mike is both gracious and humble, and his desire to learn is only surpassed by his obsession with serving Jesus’s church. Young leaders are blessed by their time with him.”

It took a little longer than expected, but Wallace achieved his goal of graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 2020. Then he set his sights on a master’s, graduating with a Master of Arts in Executive Leadership in Christian Ministry in 2022, and he just kept going. Today, at 80 years old, he is right back to graduate school and is in the midst of completing a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies with no signs of stopping.

“Then I plan on getting a doctoral degree if the creek doesn’t rise and the good Lord willing,” Wallace said. “I’ve been a full-time student for five years. I cannot tell you how much information I have learned from these programs about the Old and New Testaments – and I’ve gone to church all my life – about how things were cannoned and their inerrancy. It makes sense, and I want to teach it.

“Bear in mind, both of my parents were 99 years old when they died. I’m so healthy, it’s sinful. The probability that I’m going to live a few more years is high, and I don’t want to waste it. I love CCU. It has given me more interest in my life than anything else since my wife died. My greatest dream is to teach at CCU, and I figure if I get enough education, maybe they won’t look at my age. I want to have an impact on people through the gospel of Jesus Christ, and education is probably the best vehicle.”

In addition to being a “full-time student,” Wallace has also published a children’s book, Saunter, and he aspires to write two more. The first he’d like to write is about the people who made the cross upon which Jesus was crucified, and he’d like to write another book about his life growing up in a rural town he compared to “the frontier days” and his introduction to a modern life in California.

“I stay pretty busy as a student, but I have a lot to share with people,” Wallace said. “I’ve been blessed. My house is full of things about CCU: coffee cups, banners, and books. They have given me so much to be proud of and grateful for.”

It has been a long road for Wallace with plenty of highs and lows, but it certainly remains wide open with plenty of hope, opportunity, and optimism in the years to come.

This article was originally published in Beyond Magazine by Colorado Christian University.

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