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Doug Wall: 1927-2016 - Wall left legacy in law, athletics in northern Arizona

Doug Wall

Doug Wall

PRESCOTT VALLEY – Doug Wall, a prominent attorney, college professor and trustee who helped bring an indoor swimming complex and the former Center for High Altitude Training to Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, died at home after a lengthy illness on Nov. 8. He was 89.

Wall lived in Flagstaff from 1957-93 and retired to Prescott Valley with his wife, Marilyn, in 2001.

In his early 20s, after graduating from Kansas University in 1950, Wall worked for Phillips Oil Company in Bartlesville, Okla., where he coached the company’s successful amateur swim team.

That’s when Wall’s life took a dramatic turn.

“One late afternoon, in the locker room after practice, a guy who had become a good friend told me to sit down. He wanted to talk to me,” Wall recalled to Ray Newton, a close friend of his from Prescott. “I won’t forget him – Ernie, the custodian. He looked me in the eye and said, ‘Mr. Wall, don’t wanna hurt your feelings, but why don’t you quit this job and go make something of yourself?’ Know what? I did quit.”

Wall returned to KU and earned a law degree in 1955. While there, he coached KU’s swim team. He later carried his passion for the legal profession and swimming to Flagstaff.

The Natatorium at NAU, which opened in November 1983, was renamed the Douglas J. Wall Aquatic Center in 1996 following Wall’s eight-year stint on the Arizona Board of Regents. Wall became best known for keeping tuition costs low for NAU students.

“He took his role as a regent seriously, but never himself,” former regent Frank Besnette said earlier this year. “He was a strong, strident and often lone voice reminding everyone that the Arizona Constitution says, ‘education shall be as nearly free as possible.’ ”

Gene Hughes, NAU’s president from 1979-1993, was a longtime personal friend of Wall’s who labored with him to bring the natatorium to campus. On Feb. 22 of this year, NAU opened a new campus aquatics and tennis center in Wall’s name.

Decades earlier, in 1994, Wall and Hughes brought the Center for High Altitude Training to campus so Olympic athletes could work out and swim at Flagstaff’s 7,000-foot elevation. The center closed in 2009 due to budget cuts. The complex hosted more than 6,000 athletes from 44 countries in 16 sports, including some Olympic and Paralympic medal winners, from 1996-2008.

Hughes, 82, said Wall started at NAU as a part-time faculty member in the College of Business. Wall eventually became an associate professor of business law (1963-93), assistant to the university’s president (1963-83) and the school’s legal counselor.

“In that role [as professor], he positively influenced the lives of a lot of students,” Hughes added. “A number of them decided they wanted to be lawyers after they had taken his business law course, including my oldest daughter [who later earned her law degree].”

Wall, a U.S. Navy veteran, was born in Denver in 1927 and raised in Iola, Kansas.

In 1959, Wall moved from Phoenix to Flagstaff and became a partner in the firm of Magnum, Wall, Stoops and Warden PLLC, where he stayed until 1988.

“When I graduated from law school, I went to work for Doug,” Flagstaff Mayor Jerry Nabours said in February. “He was my mentor. I knew nothing about the actual practice of law. I learned very quickly that nothing is more important than the best interest of your client. He was a masterful attorney and every client of his had a champion on his or her side.”

Hughes said Wall also helped a number of Flagstaff businessmen succeed in “tough businesses, including restaurants.”

From 1963-75, Wall served on the Arizona Interstate Stream Commission (now Arizona Water Commission). Under his chairmanship, the Central Arizona Project (CAP), Arizona’s largest resource for renewable water supplies, was established.

“He was one of the state’s leaders in everything related to water issues,” Hughes said.

A former director of Arizona Public Service (APS; 1976-81) and Pinnacle West Capital Corporation (1985-99), Wall was a trustee for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Prescott campus, established in 1978. Years later, from 1994-2009, Wall worked for the University of Arizona Medical Center (UMC) Corporation as chair of the UMC Foundation.

“It’s rewarding that a lot of things I’ve done have been honored,” Wall said in recent years. “I’ve been in Arizona since 1955, and I’ve had the opportunity to work with and be friends with some of the nicest people you could ever meet.”

Wall is survived by his wife, Marilyn; children Libby Smith, Martha Pederson, Stephanie Shellenberger (Kent), Keith Mundy, Kathy Brown (Jack) and Kenny Mundy (Jill); 10 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren. At 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, Wall’s family will celebrate his life at the 1899 Bar and Grill Ballroom on the NAU campus, 307 W. Dupont Ave. in Flagstaff.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in Wall’s honor to: NAU’s swimming and diving teams, c/o NAU Foundation, Fund No. 4270, 624 S. Knolls Drive, P.O. Box 4094, Flagstaff, AZ 86011.

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