Busta’s Person of the Week: An Army Major and a Gentleman

Maj. Dr. Rodney Wallace was a Senior Army Instructor in 2006.

Busta’s Person of the Week: An Army Major and a Gentleman
January 03
00:15 2019

By Busta Brown

“I came from a home of humble beginnings and I appreciate what my parents did for me as a child. I shined shoes at six years old. I would go to the car dealerships to ask the car salesmen if they would like a shoeshine at 25 cents per shine,” said Dr. Rodney Wallace as he sat across from me with pride and a smile. “My parents taught me what they knew, and that was how to work. They taught me well, and I did it well. My dad taught me how to do yard work and I made a lot of money,” he said as he laughed.

I truly admired how highly he spoke of his upbringing and how much he honored and respected his parents. They taught him the importance of hard work, dedication and commitment. What Dr. Wallace’s parents may have lacked financially, they made up morally, and his story erases every excuse to hustling drugs, sex and violence to make ends meet.

At 14, he worked in a cannery. “The farmers used to bring the food to a place where we would steam the vegetables and put them in cans. I knew in order to make it out of here, you got to be honest, earn an honest living, and you have to work.”

Rodney said he knew he had to have that piece of paper, “that paper where it says that you are certified in something, and did something along the way to get those degrees.” So he decided to attend college and after graduating from Hillside High School in Durham, he enlisted in the United States Army in 1982. “I honorably served nine honorable years and deployed to Desert Storm before enrolling into North Carolina A&T State University in 1991.” 

He saved up his money from the many jobs and with help from serving in the Army, he was able to pay for his college. In 1994 the Durham native graduated from North Carolina A&T State University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Finance in three years. “After I graduated I was commissioned into the United States Army active duty and served in numerous combat arms and rapid deployment units with the 3rd Infantry Division and 82nd Airborne Division.” 

While serving as an active duty officer, he used the money he saved and obtained a Master of Science degree in Administration from Central Michigan University in 2001. Wallace served as the assistant professor of Military Science at Wake Forest University ROTC, and then later retired from the United States Army in 2005 after 20 years of honorable service.

After retiring from the United States Army with the rank of Major, he was hired by Simon G. Atkins High School to serve as the Senior Army Instructor for the United States Army JROTC program, and the Army Major kept going, continuing to self-fund his education. “Since my employment at Atkins, I have managed to obtain the Doctor of Health Administration degree from Central Michigan University in May 2017.”

In 2018 Maj. Dr. Wallace led Atkins High School JROTC to national rankings and within the Winston Salem/Forsyth County Schools district. The talented teams took second place in the National JLAB Championship – Academic Team, first place Raider Team, second place Rifle Team, second place Drill Team and numerous Senior ROTC scholarships & Service Academy appointments.

Wallace has been the Senior Army Instructor at Atkins High School for over 14 years. “I mentor, coach and train hundreds of outstanding JROTC cadets to obtain successful military and civilian careers.” In June 2018, his JLAB team made it to the championship round held in Washington, D.C. And Alex Trebek, who is the host of Jeopardy, was the keynote speaker at the JLAB Competition.”

As Wallace continued, he began to light up with excitement. I could see and feel the love and appreciation he has for his students. The vibe was so powerful, I felt as if I was a part of his team. And I would have loved to meet Alex Trebek, so I sat there listing to his story in amazement. “After the competition, Alex invited some of the members to be part of Teen Jeopardy, and I encouraged one of my students to try out for it. That student made it, and made it all the way to the quarter round, and walked away with $10,000.”

One of Wallace’s students got accepted into to West Point United States Military Academy, where the acceptance rate is only 10 percent. Some of the top businessmen and women, political and military, graduated from West Point.

Needless to say, he’s doing a phenomenal job with Simon G. Atkins High School United States Army JROTC program. “I pour into them what my parents poured into me, hard work, dedication and commitment. I teach them that you first have to be disciplined within yourself before you can be disciplined in your studies. Discipline and responsibility will keep you from spending more time making up excuses than doing the work.”

Go to the Chronicle’s YouTube channel at Winstonsalem Chronicle to see more of my inspiring interview with Maj. Dr. Rodney Wallace. I asked him for a few tips to better serve my students in my public speaking and radio classes, and some discipline tips for my sons and grandson. He’s great with money, so I asked him to share some tips on that as well, and more.

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