Our FoundersLeaving A Beautiful Legacy
Dwane L. Wallace was an industry pioneer and leader of Cessna Aircraft Company, the world’s largest producer of general aviation aircraft. Dwane cast a giant shadow over the industry for more than 50 years as the man who had the greatest influence on the steady growth of general aviation. His continuing vision and understanding of the needs of the marketplace enabled Cessna to grow from a one airplane model line to a model line which covered the entire spectrum of business and private flying, from the two-place Model 140 Trainer to the turbo-fan Citation Jet.
In 1929, Dwane enrolled in the University of Wichita (now Wichita State University), which was one of only three universities in the country that offered a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering. Following graduation in 1933, he joined Walter Beech at Beech Aircraft Company as an engineer for three months. In January 1934, Dwane persuaded his uncle, C.V. Cessna, to let him reorganize the Cessna Aircraft Company, which was then closed because of the depression. Two years later Dwane became President of Cessna and set out to make it the number one light plane manufacturer. His sharp engineering skills allowed him to create high-quality, low-cost airplanes that could be made on efficient assembly lines. In the early 1940s, Cessna went on to develop aircraft for military, consumer and business needs. By 1958, Cessna was producing more light airplanes than all four of its competitors combined and eventually controlled 53% of the market. Dwane was firmly credited as having single-handedly built the light-plane industry.
Dwane held the position of President of Cessna Aircraft Company until 1964, when he became Chairman of the Board, holding that position until 1975, when he retired.
In January 1975, Dwane received the International Daniel Guggenheim Medal for great achievement in aeronautics – the first award to be presented in the field of general aviation. The Guggenheim Medal Board of Awards selected Dwane for his honor with the following citation: “For his many engineering, management and leadership contributions to development of General Aviation from a novelty fifty years ago to a key part of the world’s transportation system today.” The first of these awards was given to Orville Wright in 1929.
Not only did Dwane work hard for Cessna Aircraft, but he also combined a lifelong career in aviation with distinguished achievement in public services. He has been recognized for his participation in national and state governments, as a contributor of his time and his talent, and philanthropic efforts in all areas of society until his death in 1989.
Dwane and his wife, Velma Lunt Wallace, were committed to the Wichita community, and the state of Kansas. The Wallaces established their Foundation in 1989, to provide support for a wide variety of charitable organizations.
After Dwane’s death, Velma continued the family legacy. Residing in Wichita her entire life, Velma, like Dwane, took the opportunity to give back to the Wichita community. She served as a major benefactor to Wichita, volunteering and contributing to numerous organizations. If the organizations benefitted the Wichita community, Velma was helping to make it all possible.