Editor’s Note: Dean David D. Allen and the School of Pharmacy’s communications team visited Dean Emeritus Wallace L. Guess and his wife, Betty, at their Oxford home in September. They talked about Guess’ love of the Rebels, his career, life after retirement and everything in between.
Sitting down with Dean Emeritus Wallace Guess and his wife, Betty, one immediately feels at home. Betty and “Wally,” as he is affectionately known, greeted pharmacy school visitors on a recent fall day with glasses of fresh lemonade, snacks and warm smiles.
Guess was the school’s dean from 1972 to 1989. He came to the University of Mississippi after 24 years at the University of Texas as chair of the pharmaceutics department.
Life at the School of Pharmacy was a little different when Guess was dean, he said. Ole Miss had only about 8,000 students, pharmacists filled a lot less prescriptions than they do now and the school’s federal marijuana project was just starting up.
Under Guess’ tenure, scholarships increased and faculty contracts were extended from nine-month to yearlong agreements – both major accomplishments. Additionally, he started a pharmacy museum at the school and left a lasting impact on students and colleagues.
Looking back on his time at Ole Miss, Guess said there have been many great memories. One of his favorites was “when we got our first grant,” he said.
“Alice Clark (vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs) got a big one and we all celebrated,” he said.
An interesting tidbit about Guess is that he was heavily involved in research projects of his own. He was the first person to complete toxicology on contact lenses.
Even in retirement, Guess often expresses his love for the school.
“I don’t recall any bad experiences,” he said. “Every day was a good one. I was in my office by 7:30 every morning. I loved it.”
Dean David D. Allen echoed his sentiments.
“I wake up every morning excited to work with the amazing group of people at the School of Pharmacy,” he said.
Guess cared for his faculty, staff and students a great deal. During his tenure, he took time to get to know everyone he encountered. Betty said that he used to call in students that weren’t performing to their best ability and give them “a good talking to.”
She shared a story from their granddaughter’s rehearsal dinner held in August. Her granddaughter’s father-in-law was a UM pharmacy student, and once called into Guess’ office, coincidentally.
“At the rehearsal dinner, he got up and said, ‘If it wasn’t for this man, I don’t know where I would be,’” she said. “He said, ‘When I came to Ole Miss, I thoroughly enjoyed Ole Miss and my initial grades reflected that.’”
The next semester, he was on the Dean’s List. Though Guess may not remember exactly what he said to encourage him, he told the crowd that he owed much of his academic success to his dean.
“There’s no telling who else he influenced,” Betty said.
So has Guess enjoyed retirement? The answer is yes. In fact, he and Betty decided to tour the world. They raved about one of their favorite excursions, the Great River Cruise of Europe. They particularly loved visiting Prague and all the little towns they discovered along the way.
Today, the Guesses live on a beautiful 11-acre piece of land in Oxford, which houses a very famous pond. Notable author William Faulkner used to bring his boy scouts to the pond on field trips. Now, it is home to fish and the occasional flock of wild geese. The Guesses enjoy spending time with their family and cheering on their Rebels. They remain avid supporters of the university and School of Pharmacy.