Matt Wallace- "River Rat" for Life
Meet Matt Wallace, esteemed Board Member on the San Antonio River Foundation’s (SARF) Board of Directors. Raised along the Mississippi, Wallace continues to embrace his “river rat” lifestyle along our smaller, but no less grand in his opinion, San Antonio River. An avid outdoor recreation enthusiast, he can be found along the River every day relishing the fresh air and brilliant contrasts of water and land. It is that feeling of revitalization in nature that established Wallace’s interest in environmental education, stewardship and sustainability, key to the Foundation’s mission of “Beautification. Education. Preservation.” The following interview was done when he was selected as the Featured Board Member for April 2016.
Q: How long have you been with the Foundation and what position do you currently hold, if any?
A: I’m currently finishing my first year on the Board of Directors. Since I began my stint, I’ve been involved with the Strategic Planning Committee, which has helped me learn the history of the Foundation – much needed knowledge in order to assist in moving it forward!
Q: Have you had roles in other non-profit organizations?
A: I’ve been a past board member on the River Road Neighborhood Association, a past Co-Chair of the American Institute of Architects (San Antonio) Lecture Series Committee and currently serve on UTSA’s Architecture Advisory Council.
Q: What is your educational and professional background?
A: I hold a Bachelor of Design in Architecture from the University of Florida and a Master of Architecture from the University of Washington. Between degrees I worked in Chicago, Illinois, earning my architectural stripes planning additions for O’Hare International Airport and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Before landing in San Antonio I also spent time in Lame Deer, Montana designing and building straw-bale structures for Chief Dull Knife College on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation.
Q: What do you believe is SARF’s greatest accomplishment?
A: In my opinion, SARF’s greatest accomplishment is, and continues to be, the scale at which it works. Providing stewardship for the San Antonio River and its watershed is no small feat. I’ve lived in San Antonio now for over 10 years and each year more people become aware of the River and its precious ecosystem.
Q: What are some of your hobbies or how do you spend your free time?
A: All of my hobbies include an aspect of the outdoors; from running, biking, fishing, hiking, swimming, carveboarding (like surfing, but on hard surfaces like roads), snowboarding…you name it. In my younger years, I was an amateur skateboarder (before my knees gave out)!
Q: Where are you from? What are some of your favorite things about SA? Or the River?
A: I was born and raised with my twin [pictured above] along the Mississippi River, in Dubuque, Iowa and grew up fishing its banks and neighboring trout streams. I currently live with my cohort, Vicki Yuan, in the River Road Neighborhood – about 200 feet from the river and walk to it every day. You could say I’ve been a river rat my entire life.
Q: Why are you passionate about the SARF mission/What drew you to SARF?
A: Our stewardship and education component drove me to want to be part of the Foundation. The Mission Reach in particular was a game changer. I run on this stretch almost every day and see children interacting with the River. Whether it’s flipping over rocks, spotting turtles or just listening to the ripples, the engagement with nature is immensely important in their development. It also helps to cultivate the next generation of “river rats”.
Q: What do you hope to see in the future of SARF and/or San Antonio?
A: Do I dare say it? I would love to see swimming re-introduced along the river. In the early 1900’s, Brackenridge Park had Lambert’s Beach – the first public swimming area in the city. You can still view the old changing rooms within the park. In order for San Antonio to thrive, we need more venues that provide respite from the heat.