Dan and Nancy Bell Evans ’54 establish music professorship

Dan and Nancy EvansLast spring, Nancy Bell Evans ’54 had a milestone birthday coming, and her husband, Dan, had an idea. To celebrate her lifelong passions for music and for Whitman, he made a special gift in honor of the occasion that will impact students studying music at the college for generations.

As a music major at Whitman, a former elementary school music teacher and lifelong patron of the arts, Nancy believed in the importance of supporting music in educational institutions. In 2008, Nancy and Dan made a generous gift to establish the Nancy Bell Evans Distinguished Lecturer in Music Endowment, but they always hoped to create a full professorship. In 2013, Dan surprised Nancy by taking the next step in turning this music professorship into reality through a gift to Whitman that he announced at her birthday celebration.

Dan said, “We started funding this endowment five years ago and Nancy’s birthday was an opportune time to achieve our goal establishing a professorship in the music department at Whitman, of which Nancy has so many fond memories from her days as a student.”

His generous addition to the endowment will help it reach the level needed to create a professorship, and when the Evans’ gifts are matched by a gift from their estate, the full funding will be in place.

Speaking of the gift, Nancy said, “My love of music was strengthened and nurtured while attending Whitman, where I was privileged to study under excellent piano teachers and learn musicology with great professors like Ken Schilling and Bill Bailey. I am delighted to help assist future generations expand their musical experiences at Whitman.”

When Nancy graduated from Whitman in 1954, she could not have imagined that slightly more than a decade later, she would be Washington State’s first lady – at age 31, the youngest in state history. Along with Dan – who served three consecutive terms as Washington state governor (1965-1977) and one term as a U.S. senator (1983-89) – they have been Whitman parents (Dan Jr. ’83) and generous benefactors who have strengthened the institution about which they both feel so strongly. Nancy has also been one of Whitman’s most dedicated volunteer leaders, serving as an Overseer from 1973 to 1988 and then as a Trustee from 1994 to 2008. Now a Trustee Emerita, she is currently the co-chair of the Western Washington Regional Campaign Committee for the Now Is the Time Campaign.

Nancy’s passion for music reaches far beyond Whitman and is reflected in her civic leadership in the arts. Evans was a co-founder and board member of the Governor’s Festival of the Arts and has been a trustee of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and the Benaroya Hall Music Center.

President George Bridges lauded their gift, saying, “Nancy and Dan’s generosity not only creates a new professorship, but it also reinforces our music program’s ability to inspire and create connections between people through the power of music. The Evans Professorship will also deepen our commitment to music and establish another way for us to celebrate the Evans’ legacy at Whitman College.”

Music Department Chair Susan Pickett added, “The faculty of the Music Department are humbled and honored that Nancy and Dan have invested so generously in our future. The gift that they have envisioned will make an enormous difference for many generations to come. From all of us, thank you!”