Christ the King Award Recipient for 2012:
Richard J. Wall ’52
On Nov. 18, 2012, Richard J. Wall ’52 received the Christ the King Award, the highest honor SI bestows upon a graduate of the school. Below is the text of the citation read at the Mass.
Richard J. “Dick” Wall is a self-described “political animal.” The first election that drew his interest was held in the spring of 1951, when Dick ran for student body president of St. Ignatius High School, presumably on the Republican ticket. While Dick’s tireless work on the SI dance and rally committees as a junior established him as a frontrunner for the post, Dick felt that a clever gimmick could help him secure a victory. Taking a page from the book of Charlie Meyers, Dick decided to give out sticks of gum to the entire student body. The gum wrapper, of course, had a slogan: “Stick with Dick.” It was no contest.
Today we honor Richard J. Wall ’52 as the recipient of Saint Ignatius College Preparatory’s highest alumni honor, the Christ the King Award. For more than 60 years, SI’s Class of 1952 has stuck with Dick Wall, their principled leader and good friend. In the six decades since his graduation from SI, Dick has kept his guys very close, running hundreds of class lunches and numerous reunions, while helping establish the most financial aid class scholarships in the history of the school. With the exception of the recent presidential election, Dick has been a winner his entire life, achieving great things in school, politics and the law, while always remaining a devoted husband, loving father, loyal friend, and humble servant of God.
Dick Wall was born in San Francisco to Charles Allen Wall, D.D.S. and Albina Rossi Wall on April 8, 1934. He was the youngest of five boys who all went to SI, and grew up in the Marina district with his brothers, C. Allen ‘46, Peter ’47, John ’49, and Robert ’50. When Dick’s father died at a very young age in 1945, Mrs. Wall was left to raise 5 boys between the ages of 10 and 16. Dick credits the Jesuits for helping his mother carry them through some very difficult years. “We have always been great followers of the Jesuits,” says Dick, noting that his uncle, Rev. P. Carlo Rossi, S.J. was a Jesuit priest who was very influential in the lives of the Wall boys. “The Jesuits were our role models.”
Dick matriculated to Saint Ignatius in 1948, where he competed on the football team, wrote for The Quill and Inside SI, and was a member of the Rally Committee and Block Club. Dick says that his uncle was always nearby, recalling that Fr. Rossi didn’t have to do or say much to keep him in line. “I remember receiving JUG from time to time, and they would make us write 5,000 word essays on why tennis balls have fuzz or why gold balls rest atop flagpoles. Somebody would report my actions back to Fr. Carlo and that would be the end of it. It was clear early on that the Jesuits ran the show.” Having a very loving mother and a strong Jesuit influence proved to be an outstanding foundation, as three of the Wall boys grew up to become doctors, one a real estate professional, and one a lawyer.
After graduating from S.I. in 1952, Dick went to the University of San Francisco and then transferred to Stanford, earning his undergraduate degree and a law degree in just six years. Dick then served two years in the U.S. Army before returning to the City to practice law. He joined O’Donnell and Weiss in 1962 and today he is celebrating his 50th year with the same firm.
In the intervening years, Dick has served his country in a variety of ways: as a delegate in 1987 to the U.S./China Joint Session on Trade, Investment and Economic Law; on the West Point Board of Visitors in the early 1990s; on International Election Observation Missions in Cambodia in 1998 and in Mongolia in 2000; and on the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 2002. Dick has also served on the California selection committee for White House Fellows and as a member of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission. He was also a Member of the Governor’s Advisory Selection Committee of the Regents of the University of California. Dick says that “service to others” -- specifically God and Country -- is what has inspired him to work to make the world a better place.
These ideals motivated Dick to help establish the Admiral Daniel J. Callaghan Society at St. Ignatius in 2010, not only to honor the Admiral and so many other SI graduates who have given their lives for their country, but also to help inspire a new generation of Ignatians to embrace a life of service. Dick recalls feeling “disappointed by people who were takers rather than givers. Then I realized that SI was doing a great job of educating these kids who, thanks to their volunteer work and generosity, were helping countless institutions survive.” Dick hopes that the Callaghan Society encourages current students to respond to God’s call to serve their country in some way, to “give and never count the cost.”
In addition to the long hours he has spent serving his clients and his country, Dick has also served the San Francisco Catholic community faithfully as a parishioner in the parish of his youth, St. Vincent DePaul, and as a co-founder and past president of San Francisco’s Hibernian-Newman Club, which is dedicated to the Newman apostolate in San Francisco and the promotion of Irish culture and friendship amongst its members.
And though he wears a suit and tie on most days, Dick is also an avid outdoorsman. Dick’s classmate, Bill Sullivan, remarked that “Dick Wall has hiked and camped in all 15 of California’s coastal counties, from Oregon to Mexico. For reasons known only to himself, this one man sleeps in a tent large enough to accommodate the entire defensive backfield of the San Francisco 49ers. The tent is legendary. Fellow campers call it the Taj Mahal.”
Dick’s friends are not at all surprised that he is being honored today and they were all quick to comment on Dick’s attributes. Dick’s longtime friend, Peter Flood, wrote: “For years I have anticipated being called to offer some comments at his funeral. Today he is being honored while on the green side of the grass. How his life reflects on his experience at SI is unknown to me, though the honor awarded today is certainly a testament to that time.” Rev. Fred Tollini, S.J. added his own praise: “To me, he is just an outstanding Ignatian. He is a man’s man. He’s at ease with all different types of people and he can still befriend you even if you disagree on many things. And what greater legacy can a man have than to have your children not only imitate and admire you, but also love you so much?”
Collectively, the Wall family has never forgotten what the Jesuits did for them, whether it is through the record number of scholarships established by Dick and his classmates at SI, Dr. Robert Wall’s service as the team doctor for the USF Dons, Dr. C. Allen Wall’s work on the SI Board of Regents and his gift of the Doris Duke Wall Choral Room at SI, or through the establishment of the P. Carlo Rossi, S.J. Chair of the USF School of Business.
While working so hard and serving God and country so well, Dick always has had time for his family. Dick and his wife Denise have been happily married for 49 years and have had four wonderful children together and five grandchildren. Dick and Denise continue to live in San Francisco’s Marina District, only a few short blocks from Dick’s childhood home.
And while the “Stick with Dick” slogan surely garnered some votes for Dick Wall in the spring of 1951, perhaps his other campaign slogan is most fitting. Tucked in the corner of the April 27, 1951 edition of Inside SI is another ad for Dick Wall that states: “For a good and dependable President, elect Dick Wall – who not only intends, but acts.” It can be said here today that Dick Wall has spent a lifetime acting on his intentions. Dick, you have never asked anyone to do something that you didn’t do yourself and for that, we are all grateful. You are a man of immense dedication and integrity, and we are proud to honor you today for your good work.
Dick, on behalf of the school, the SI Alumni Association, the Regents and Trustees, thank you for being a loyal and humble friend of SI and a role model for future Ignatians. You and your brother Robert now stand side by side as the only brother duo to receive the Christ the King Award in the 53 year history of this celebration. Congratulations.