My time in academia has not been entirely wasted ...
The academics had looked forward to arguing with Wallace at the reception. He was unaware that he had inadvertently made an outstanding contribution to his intellectual reputation by his early exit. As they drank and argued, the noise in the room got louder. The effects of alcohol produced a collective conclusion amongst them that, had Wallace been there, he would have had the genius to recognize the brilliance of what they would have said in the lecture if they had been him.