Obituary: Dylan Wallace, 2019 Arts & Sciences graduate, 22

Dylan Wallace
Dylan Wallace, pictured here at Yosemite National Park, loved nature, art and baking. He graduated in 2019 and was applying to be a high school environmental science teacher.

Dylan Wallace, a 2019 graduate who studied environmental earth science and anthropology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, died in an accidental drowning in his hometown of Chicago on Friday, June 28, 2019. He was 22.

University faculty say Wallace was a creative thinker, an advocate for the environment and an engaging person who found joy in the world around him. 

“He saw everything in life as an adventure,” said Michael Krawczynski, assistant professor of earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences. 

Krawczynski first met Wallace last year in his geochemistry course. He vividly recalls grading Wallace’s first problem set — not because Wallace got all of the answers right (he didn’t), but because of Wallace’s creative approach to the challenge. 

“It was clear that he really had thought through the questions in a different way,” Krawczynski said. “A lot of students are concerned about getting the ‘right’ answer, but he brought a fresh perspective to the assignment. I found that refreshing.”

So when Wallace enrolled in Krawczynski’s 100-level course on natural disasters, Krawczynski invited him to serve as his teaching assistant.

“I said, ‘You’re too smart to take this class; you should help me teach it,’” Krawczynski said. “Dylan had such a passion for teaching, he jumped at the opportunity. He was always there for office hours, always smiling, always ready to help. When we had two days to grade 165 final exams, he showed up with a tray of homemade brownies and said he was there until the end.” 

Jennifer R. Smith, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences and Wallace’s four-year adviser, also admired Wallace’s spirit.

“It seems like a cliche to say ‘he was such a nice guy,’ but he was always a positive presence,” Smith said. “I would feel better after an appointment with him. Now that’s not the job of the advisee, but he brought that sort of joy to every conversation. I found myself enthusiastic about anything he was enthusiastic about.” 

Smith said Wallace arrived at Washington University committed to sustainability but also passionate about art, taking an art class nearly every semester and serving as an attendant at the Kemper Art Museum. Wallace also was a TRiO Scholar and served as a research intern at the Chicago Botanic Garden and an environmental education intern at the Student Conservation Association. At the time of his death, he was applying to be a high school environmental science teacher in Chicago. 

“Dylan took every opportunity to learn more about environmental systems and how people impact those systems,” Smith said. “I was really excited to follow his career. His death is a tragedy not only for those of us who knew Dylan but also for all of the students he would have inspired to share his love for the natural world.”

A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday, July 9, at the Elms Funeral Home in Elmwood Park, Ill. 

Wallace is survived by his parents, Timothy and Andrea, and his sister, Nicole. 

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