When Shannon Wallace first came to Wingate in 1999, it felt like home. Back in the Charlotte area as a transition support partner for LPL Financial, Wallace, a four-year starter on the Bulldog offensive line, is now calling on other alumni and supporters of the blue and gold to return to their roots by joining the Bulldog Club.
“There are so many new and exciting things going on on campus, people should come back and visit. And when they do, we hope that they’ll get involved and rally around the school,” says Wallace, who was recently named chairman of the Bulldog Club.
Wallace, who graduated with a degree in business administration and has more than a decade of experience in banking and investments, knows growth potential when he sees it.
“I’ve looked at the numbers, and there are over 900 former football players that live within a two-hour drive of Wingate. So coming back should be no problem,” he says. “I also want people to know they don’t have to give a high-dollar amount to contribute. It’s all going to a good cause. It all matters.”
When they do come back, Wallace says, alumni will not only be reminded of the beauty of the campus but will be impressed by the new McGee Center, top-notch facilities for athletes, expanding expertise in the Athletic Training Department and the growing exposure that sports programs are getting via the University’s contract with ESPN.
“It’s great to be able to livestream the games, and I know a lot of people are following the Bulldogs through social media,” Wallace said.
At one time, those social-media connections were his primary link with Wingate. A longtime Clemson football fan, he had joined that university’s famed IPTAY booster club and attended their games.
Then he attended a Wingate alumni event at BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, and he started feeling nostalgic.
“I saw a lot of people I graduated with, sitting around, talking and reminiscing,” Wallace explains. “For the next year, I kept thinking about that, about what would draw people back to Wingate … to make them come back frequently and have the same kind of reunion experience that my friends at Clemson were having.”
Also a veteran of the restaurant industry, Wallace decided to take his tailgating ventures to the next level. He bought an enclosed trailer and installed flood lights, a 60-inch television, a sound system, a water tank, a grill, an awning and more. The trailer became a “rallying point” for the One Dog Club, a nonprofit Wallace formed to create momentum for Wingate fan support and camaraderie.
As his involvement with the University grew, so did his relationship with Bill Nash, director of Wingate’s Athletic Foundation.
“I began to understand more about the goals of the University and wanted to help more, so instead of re-creating the wheel with the One Dog Club, I dissolved it and started working with the Bulldog Club,” Wallace said.
Now that he is chairman, Wallace, father of an 8-week-old daughter, says he spends much of his time outside of work and family reaching out to former student-athletes and other potential club members and imbedding himself in the Wingate culture to be better able to spread the word about University milestones and needs.
“My primary focus is getting people engaged and making them aware, educating them on how their contribution matters, so people understand how they can impact students,” Wallace says.
He foresees the Bulldog Club, whose goal is to raise scholarship funds for the 500-plus student-athletes on Wingate’s 22 teams, taking a larger role in athletes’ lives even after they’ve played their last game.
“With our rallying around student-athletes, we want to build a strong network with current athletes and alumni so that we can better support students as they leave school and go into the workforce,” he explains. “They may need help with job opportunities, advice and mentoring.”
Right now, he’s issuing a call for Wingate fans and returning alumni to drop by his tailgate trailer at upcoming football games and get to know one another.
“My plan is to travel to home and away games, so I’d love to get a strong group of fans to travel with,” he says. “Sometimes Wingate fans are spread out across the venue, but it would be great to have everyone hanging out together.”
In addition to renewing old friendships with teammates, Wallace says he’s making new connections with alumni and with parents of athletes.
“I’ve learned a lot about our athletes being able to spend time with parents, so now when I go to a game, whether it’s a volleyball or football player that I’m watching, it means more to me,” he says.
Sept. 11, 2017