Remembering Mary Evans

Black and white image of Mary EvansMary Levering Evans passed away July 20, 2020 at the age of 81, and with her ends an era in Miami University’s Division of Student Life. Mary joined the staff of Miami University in 1966 as assistant dean of women. After several years as director of student activities, she retired in 1992 as assistant vice president for student affairs. During her long career at Miami she worked closely with several other Miami University Student Affairs legends, some of whom are pictured below.

Mary stayed in Oxford and was very active following her retirement; for more information about the impact Mary had in the Oxford community, here is her obituary.

Current and former colleagues, as well as Miami alums who worked directly with Mary, recently reflected and shared their thoughts and memories of their time with her.

Mary Evans in 1980s with a group of about 8 student affairs staff members in someone's home
Mary Evans at Christmas 1986 with a group of staff members from that time, sitting around a table.

"Mary represented the very best of a Student Affairs commitment when she worked at Miami. She was devoted to students and was a caring colleague. For me, she represented integrity, personal dignity, a commitment to the right values, and a powerful work ethic, whether she was working on summer orientation, Associated Student Government, student organizations, women's groups, and the culture of student affairs. When you worked with her she had high standards--no shortcuts or work that did not represent the best we could do. She worked long hours and always tried to make herself available to students in need. She was a pioneer on women's issues. She also worked hard on behalf of our student affairs colleagues. For me what always comes first when I recall working with Mary was that she was committed to getting the details right--to representing the best, and she drew on that commitment when working with persons across the University. Few people had the impact she had."

-Dr. Richard Nault, Retired Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students

"I have no idea if Dean Mary Evans ever taught a class, but she was one of Miami University’s most talented educators. She loved students, and her joy in their successes could light up any room. Mary had a knack for guiding young people through their first experiences as responsible adults. If you needed advice, she was there for you. If you needed a foil to push against, she could be that, too. Mary was no pushover, though, and could be formidable if the situation required it. But she was always patient and deeply kind. She helped you grow into the best parts of yourself. My experience at Miami—and my life—would have been profoundly diminished if Mary hadn’t been a part of it. I already miss her terribly."

-Mike Thomas, ASG President 1988-88

"I first met Mary Levering Evans when I was a candidate for the Assistant Director of Student Activities position at Miami University. Little did I know that her influence would assist me in so many personal and professional ways. Mary saw potential in the transferrable skills I had to offer, and took a chance on me for the job. There was a steep learning curve for me but Mary was patient. Throughout the initial learning process, Mary and I had many conversations about life, career, and financial security. She helped me understand the concept of paying myself by investing for retirement. I thank her quarterly upon receipt of the confirmation that Mary's investment advice was well worth heeding.

Mary also taught me the art of engaging with student leaders. I utilized this guidance throughout my years as Advisor to the Campus Activities Council (CAC), which was a great opportunity for me. All of these experiences prepared me for my subsequent roles as Associate Director and then Director of Student Activities at Miami. By the time I reached Director, Mary had chosen to retire, but was still very much a mentor for me.

After almost 40 years in the Student Affairs field, now serving as Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students at Prairie View A&M University, Prairie View, TX, I take this time to acknowledge one of the great ones. A woman who was selfless in her quest to develop and nurture students, and who instilled that passion in me. 

So long old friend."

Steve Ransom, former Student Activities Assistant Director, Associate Director, and Director, currently Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students at Prairie View A&M University

"I was fortunate to be hired by Mary in the summer of 1988. From the moment I met Mary during my interview, I was smitten. Professionally smitten. Mary was so the most gracious, yet appropriately demanding supervisor that I had ever encountered in my career. Behind that lovely demeanor was a professional who not only wanted the best for her students, but a supervisor who compelled you to want the same. A trait that changed many a person who was fortunate to work with and for her.

I came at an interesting time with a change of leadership in Student Affairs early in my tenure, a reorganization that eventually moved me out of Mary’s purview, yet Mary remained a person on whom I could rely to assist me, as a newly named Director, with context and guidance on the Miami way.  A blessing for which I will always be grateful.

My career in Student Affairs was solidified by my time at Miami. Having Mary, Royal, Gil, and Bob E. in my professional life made a monumental difference in my trajectory. I thank Mary often for hiring me and teaching me a valuable lesson about making professional decisions because of the people who will surround you. I’m better because of Mary Evans."

-Michael Hayes, formerly Director of Greek Life, currently Assistant Vice President for Student Life, University of Chicago

"Mary Evans took a chance on me when she hired me in August 1985 as coordinator of women’s programs, a 10-month position that, along with some programming money, was all that remained of Miami’s first women’s center (1977-82). A year after I was hired, Mary advocated successfully to increase my position to full time (12 months) and promoted me to assistant director of student activities for women’s programs. The promotion came with the additional responsibility of overseeing Miami’s sororities and advising the Panhellenic Association. I was so grateful for Mary’s trust in me and her ongoing mentorship, which included support for my professional development in the area of Greek Life, with which I had had no collegiate or professional experience.

Mary stood by me and was a tremendous support to me during the late 1980s, when student protests over campus safety, partially directed at me, resulted in a sit-in in the President’s Office and President Paul Pearson’s subsequent creation of a university commission on the status of women. Mary supported my membership on the commission, which ultimately issued 57 recommendations. These recommendations included the (re)establishment of a women’s center, which Mary was pivotal in opening in 1991 and I had the great privilege of directing starting in 1999. I worked with Mary until around 1990, when the division was reconfigured and each of us assumed different roles within the division.

After her retirement, Mary and I stayed in touch and got together frequently either for lunch at Skyline Chili or for snacks at her home on Silvoor Lane. Working with and for Mary was my introduction to student affairs work, and I will be forever grateful that she saw potential in me. Mary was a wonderful supervisor to me, giving me the confidence to remain in student affairs. Mary was also a passionate advocate for students during her many years at Miami. She was skilled at mentoring and bringing out the best in them. She impacted hundreds of students during her long career at Miami and leaves a lasting legacy that her colleagues and her students will not soon forget."

-Jane Goettsch (former Assistant Director of Student Activities, recently retired Director of Women*s Initiatives)

“[...] Mary was sort of the personification of "Mother Miami" -- super supportive of the institution, nurturing of the student leaders she mentored, warm-hearted, cheerful, and gracious with a gently persuasive way about her. I visited with Mary on nearly every alumni trip to campus and enjoyed making this enduring connection with her (and Sue, until her passing in 2008). Our last soiree was 2016."

- Mark Cannon, Miami University delegate to the Ohio Student Association (1984-86) and chief of staff to ASG President John Cager, currently Deputy Executive Director of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International

"I know her support, along with Leslie Haxby McNeill, [Derrell] Hart and Bob Etheridge, was critical to my development as a young leader. She was valued by so many students and staff and will be missed."

-Jeff Berding (former ASG Vice President for Residence Life and chief of staff to ASG President), President of FC Cincinnati