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Honors Through the Years: JoAnn Evans

JoAnn Evans and late husband Nick Evans.

JoAnn Evans and her late husband Nick Evans.

For many students in the WVU Honors Program and College from 1987 through 2007, Mrs. JoAnn Evans was more than just an employee. She became a friendly face who offered advice, counseled countless students, and became a friend to many. JoAnn first arrived at WVU in 1967 with her husband, Nick, who came to WVU as a professor. Her first job at the University was as a secretary with the chemistry department. After serving in that role, she left her position to serve in another very important role, that of a stay-at-home mother. For the next 18 years, JoAnn raised her children and provided the nurturing and caring environment that helped make them the successful people they are today. 

In 1987, JoAnn’s phone rang, and on the other end of the line was Martha Howard, who was then the director of the WVU Honors Program. Howard offered JoAnn a position within the program, and just like that, JoAnn was an employee of WVU once again. At that time the program was housed in Oglebay Hall and consisted of only two full-time employees, Martha and JoAnn, as well as a few student workers. Eventually a part-time secretary was hired, and the program’s location was transitioned to Stalnaker Hall.  During this time, Honors freshmen students were assigned to spaces in Stalnaker and Dadisman Halls. 

Some of the things JoAnn remembers most about her time in the Honors Program are the lasting relationships she built with the many student workers whose paths she crossed. Some of her memories included one summer and fall in which she attended seven weddings, all of former Honors students; being told that a group of Honors engineering students had rigged an elevator so that the up and down buttons did the opposite of what they were supposed to; helping many students through the years with both personal and academic issues; and one time, coming into the Honors residence hall kitchen and seeing Fruit Loops and Captain Crunch cereals in a mess all over the place! These funny stories, JoAnn relayed, helped to remind her and others that Honors Program students were just like other students in many ways. 

JoAnn remembers the students' achievements, too, including winning nationally competitive scholarships, like the Rhodes and Truman; the hundreds of students going to graduate school after being accepted into some of the most prestigious programs in the country; a student who completed four majors within four years; a student who wrote a book on creativity; and countless students who wrote her notes of thanks for her efforts in helping them achieve their goals.

Thinking of her time spent with the Honors Program, JoAnn said it kept her young — the students were her “kids”, and she loved helping them grow. 

“Some of these students came in as entering freshmen and needed help getting started,” JoAnn said.  “We grew them, and I grew with them.”

Today, JoAnn keeps herself busy by taking classes through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). Some of her most enjoyable classes have included art, discussions about New Yorker magazine articles, cooking, and Dante. She remains active in her church and maintains a weekly Friday night dinner with a close group of friends. 

She traveled to Greece in 2019 with her son and loves to travel. She is looking forward to doing so again once the pandemic allows. JoAnn is the grandmother to seven grandchildren and spends as much time as possible keeping in contact with her family, even though much of it is virtual these days. She also enjoys maintaining contact with former Honors Program Director, Bill Collins, and his wife, Karen. 

There is little doubt that the Honors College would not be the environment it is today without the former presence of JoAnn Evans. We are thankful for her contributions and efforts in shaping so many students lives over her many years with the program.

Cheers to a job well done, JoAnn!