Dave Evans ’66 fondly recalls the day he got a thick envelope in the mail from Lehigh. It was 1962, his senior year in high school, and he had applied to a number of prestigious schools. Every day he’d check the mailbox, learning quickly that a thin envelope was not good news.
But on the day that envelope full of information — and the very welcome news that he would be receiving a scholarship from Lehigh University — arrived, Evans vividly recalls that his mother was overjoyed.
“She was thrilled this was going to allow me to go to a school of the caliber of Lehigh. That scholarship made all the difference for my mom and dad, and it gave me an opportunity I wouldn’t have had a chance at otherwise.”
It was that memory of his mother’s joy — along with a personal commitment to giving back —that motivated Evans and his wife, Rita, to establish the Rita A. and David J. Evans ’66 Endowed Scholarship Fund. The fund supports student access and opportunity, which is one of the three key priorities of GO: The Campaign for Lehigh.
The couple didn’t endow their scholarship in one large chunk, but over a period of eight years, they gave annually until the scholarship was fully endowed.
“The whole idea is to do what you can and not feel obligated to provide the money all at once to set up the scholarship,” Evans said. “It’s important for people to realize that they don’t have to do it all in one quick action but can take time over many years to build the scholarship and make sure it’s got the funding that it needs.”
Since 2011, five students pursuing undergraduate degrees in the Integrated Business and Engineering (IBE) program have benefited from the endowed scholarship.
“It makes me feel just super, knowing I’ve already helped five young people. I’ve received very nice notes from these students over the years, thanking me and my wife for our support. Reading about these students in the notes they send me makes me think the university is doing a great job of selecting the recipients of these scholarships,” said Evans.
By contributing to the university’s endowment, Evans and his wife will forever impact the Lehigh student experience by securing permanent and lasting resources to scholarship and financial aid. The endowment benefits all aspects of Lehigh: student services, financial aid, athletics, faculty, and programmatic support. Those who have made a gift to the endowment are lifetime members of the Tower Society, one of Lehigh’s top giving societies.
“We owe alumni and friends who contribute to Lehigh’s endowment a debt of gratitude because they are forever preserving and enhancing the educational experience,” said Lorraine Wiedorn ’84G ’13P ’17P, assistant vice president for planned giving. “Dave and Rita made a commitment to provide scholarships to students. They were able to establish their gift in their own way and in their own timeframe.”
A Rewarding Career Begun at Lehigh
Evans came to Lehigh because of the university’s reputation. He earned a Bachelor of Science in what at that time was called engineering physics, comprising courses from both electrical engineering and physics. He became involved in activities such as glee club, the Mustard and Cheese drama society, and Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity.
Evans also joined the Air Force ROTC, something he said many Lehigh engineering students were doing in order to receive deferment from the military draft so they could complete their education. For him, that ROTC training led to three academic degrees and a 21-year career in the U.S. Air Force.
After earning a Master of Arts degree in physics from the Air Force Institute of Technology in Dayton, Ohio, Evans was stationed in California where he earned a Master of Arts degree in physics from the University of California, Irvine (UCI), and began working with satellite systems.
“I worked with engineering contractors outside the government, making sure the satellites the Air Force was getting ready to launch were performing as they were supposed to. I got a lot of good experience seeing how the space business worked,” Evans said.
After earning a doctorate in physics at UCI, the Air Force sent Evans to Albuquerque, New Mexico, for four years to work on leading-edge laser technology. He then taught physics at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“I enjoyed teaching very much. After eight years, the Air Force sent me back to Los Angeles to work on new technologies, but I came back to the academy and was the acting department chair for the next couple of years before I retired,” Evans said.
After 21 years of service, Evans retired from the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel in 1987 and went to work for Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, California. He retired in 2009 as executive director.
Evans and his wife live in the Los Angeles area and recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Retirement hasn’t dimmed Evans’ desire to give back and serve others, though. He actively volunteers for several organizations, including the United Service Organization (USO) at their flagship center at the Los Angeles International Airport, Bob Hope USO at LAX.
“As a volunteer, I work with military people who travel through Los Angeles Airport. The USO was established back in the 1940s to support military people and their families, to provide them with assistance when they’re traveling for military assignments. I get a lot of pleasure out of it — these are fantastic young men and women who come through the airport, and it’s a pleasure to be able to help them out,” Evans said.
It’s all part of giving back in gratitude for what he has received, in life and through his Lehigh education.
“Lehigh prepared me in so many different dimensions, helping me understand how to solve complex problems and to look for all the appropriate resources to help me deal with it. That was all Lehigh — I don’t think I would have gotten that at any other college.”