Cardinal Cadence Spring/Summer 2013

A can-do attitude

Nancy and Kenneth EvansLamar University welcomes Kenneth and Nancy Evans to top post

Kenneth Evans has been selected as Lamar University’s 15th president after an intensive national search. Texas State University System Chancellor Brian McCall described Evans as “fresh blood with new ideas” and praised his extensive experience in areas where Lamar wants to grow.

“Lamar University has a great tradition,” Evans said. “Nancy and I are excited about the promise of the future for Lamar, and its role in the Beaumont community and beyond.”

“I am particularly impressed with the entrepreneurial spirit exemplified by the administrators, students, faculty and staff at Lamar,” Evans said. “Nearly 70 percent enrollment growth over the past decade and significant strides in research are amazing. There is clearly a can-do attitude at Lamar. It is also evident that Lamar benefits from being part of the TSUS. It is embraced by the communities of Southeast Texas and has strong legislative support.”

Evans’ background portends an impressive array of experiences from which to draw. Evans has served since 2007 as dean of the Michael F. Price College of Business at the University of Oklahoma. He previously served as associate dean of graduate studies, assistant dean of undergraduate studies and chair of the marketing department at the University of Missouri-Columbia. He has worked in a variety of research, teaching and administration positions at Arizona State University, the University of Colorado and California State University, Sacramento. Prior to his academic career, Evans worked as a consultant and marketing representative at several northern California companies.

Evans, who will take office July 1, looks forward to “talking to university people—regents, administrators, faculty, staff, students, alumni and shareholders—to get a more informed perspective of the issues and opportunities at Lamar.”

“We must address the major issues confronting higher education while advancing the quality of our programming and infrastructure as well as the contributions of our research,” Evans said. “I am drawn to the challenges and opportunities facing Lamar and, for that matter, universities in general.

“How we address the challenges facing us will be determined by a collective community of the university and external stakeholders working to carve out a clear vision,” Evans said.

Recognizing that around 30 percent of Lamar’s credit hours are generated through online programs, Evans sees important work ahead in that area to “protect what Lamar is doing in that space. Normally, the best way to protect online space is to grow additional opportunities and to constantly ramp up and stay ahead of the competition.”

That includes creating courses and programs not yet offered and offering existing programs in new places that result in increased enrollments.

Another area of opportunity Evans sees for growth is providing endorsements of completion. “A lot of people are not necessarily looking to come back to get an additional degree,” Evans said. “They are looking for an enhancement of key skills that they need to be competitive.” Offering an endorsement of core competency may be attractive to many potential students.

He understands the importance of fundraising and community engagement. “Lamar has done a fantastic job with its first comprehensive campaign,” Evans said. “That really shows the level of support for the university among its alumni and the community.”

Selected following an exhaustive national search that yielded more than 70 applications and nominations, Evans holds bachelor’s degrees in English and political science from the University of California, Davis, a master’s in business administration from California State University, Sacramento, and a Ph.D. in marketing from the University of Colorado. He has conducted extensive research and authored more than 70 journal articles on interpersonal influence, sales management, services marketing, and marketing management and theory.

Evans’s teaching and research is extensive, but it is his recent leadership experience that provides a special fit with his future role. As a dean, Evans strove to make “all the pieces work together,” providing the right support infrastructure, managing a team, and “helping the division heads recruit great faculty and keep them.” That job also included fundraising and finding “opportunities for donors to connect to the college in meaningful ways, such as with scholarships, endowed faculty positions or supported programs.”

As undergraduate assistant dean, Evans gained a perspective on the particular challenges faced by freshmen and sophomore students that affect retention and matriculation. “These issues are really, really critical,” he said. “In those first couple of years, some navigate with no difficulty at all and others need a little more help.”

Born in Pittsburgh, Pa., he grew up in Chicago where he attended public schools through the fifth grade, when the family moved to the San Fernando Valley, Calif. He was the first in his immediate family to earn a college degree. His father served as a radar technician during World War II, then continued working in technology for several major engineering companies, completing his career at Jet Propulsion Laboratories in Pasadena, Calif. “My parents knew the economic value of a college degree though neither had one,” Evans said. “They couldn’t help me through the process. They did their best, but they had not been there. I am proud to be a product of public education; as such, I am committed to working toward its continued success.”

Evans considers himself “a big sports nut” and believes trading crimson and cream for red and white will not be hard. He and Nancy anticipate watching the Cardinals on the court and field. “Nancy is a huge basketball fan, so she is very much looking forward to the basketball season,” he said. Evans played basketball, golf and football at different points in high school and college and ran daily as part of an active lifestyle.

“I like the outdoors a great deal,” Evans said. “When I have time, I enjoy hiking and whitewater canoeing.” His hobbies include woodworking and bicycling.

Ken and Nancy met while they were freshmen at University of California, Davis, and married after graduation. A career elementary school teacher, Nancy retired from the Columbia Public Schools when the couple moved to Norman, Okla.

“After I retired, I became a student. I signed up for the docent training program, studio painting and master gardening classes, things I was interested in but had never had time for when I was working and raising our family,” she said. “I am looking forward to getting to know the community and exploring Beaumont.”

The couple has two sons. Paul and his wife, Ellie, live in New York City, where he is a commercial litigator and she is a professional dancer. Paul graduated from the University of Missouri and Ellie from Washington University in St. Louis, where Paul also earned his law degree. Brian graduated from Berklee College of Music in Boston with a bachelor of fine arts and was then a musician and audio professional. He recently changed tracks and is now working toward a master’s in electrical engineering at the University of New Mexico.

While Evans will soon be updating his wardrobe to more reds and whites, it is the figurative donning of a new role he describes: “Right now, I’m looking at the shirt in the package, but I haven’t actually unwrapped it yet.”

Indications are it is destined to be a very good fit.

by Brian Sattler