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Massey award winner is a
jack of all trades


John Parkhill "Jack" Evans is an Indiana boy with basketball in his blood.

He played for his small high school in Warsaw at a time when anyone more than six feet tall was considered tall enough to play center or forward.

Evans ended up playing both, as called upon.

Before his ankles gave out, he played pickup games in Woollen Gym and even played in the games organized and refereed by Department of History Professor E.W. Brooks -- under the original rules.

He came of age in the 1950s and both followed and idolized the Boston Celtics and men like Bill Russell and Bob Cousy, and later John Havlicek.

There were bigger stars with better stats, of course. It was Wilt Chamberlain, not Russell, who scored 100 points in a single game. It was Jerry West, not Cousy, who won the title of "Mr. Clutch."

Evans, now the Phillip Hettleman professor of business administration, believes that what made Russell and Havlicek great was that they played in a way that made their teammates better. And that is why all those championship banners hung from the rafters of Boston Garden.

"I believe that if you want to go and find good role models for effective CEOs, you could do very well by looking at coaches, particularly college coaches like Joe Paterno and John Wooden and Dean Smith, who managed to sustain the athletic success and personal development of their players over long periods of time."

Evans never considered himself a great athlete. But the people at the University who have worked with Evans over the years have come to see him as the consummate team player.

Over the past three decades, Evans has won a spot as the South Building's sixth man, called not off the bench but out of the business school time and time again to do whatever has needed to be done.

The citation for the C. Knox Massey Distinguished Service Award, which Evans won in May, posed the question: "Why so many tough assignments and emergency assignments for so personally modest and humorously self-deprecating a man?"

The citation supplied the answer: "Because he has always been creatively useful and never treated any of these posts as mere time-serving, and because of his skill in leading other talented persons to forswear in-fighting and concentrate upon fruitful and useful accomplishments. He has an unmatched, unselfish capacity to serve and no selfish capacity at all for refusing to bear another burden in service to this institution."

The citation further pointed out that it would take two single pages to merely list all the responsibilities, committee assignments and leadership roles that Evans has undertaken since he arrived on campus 32 years ago.

Evans thinks the citation exaggerates his qualities a good bit. Rather, he thinks that each assignment in some ways has led to the next one. His career, as a result, has resembled more a chain reaction than a course he deliberately charted. As he put it, "I kept getting asked to do other things," he said.

And he never learned to say no.

Army engineer to dean
In a way, not saying no has been the story of his life. Evans' father was an engineer, and Evans fully expected that he would go to Purdue University to become one himself. But a friend of his father suggested that Evans consider instead Cornell University, which is where he ended up going. Evans attended Cornell as a member of the ROTC program and after finishing his master's degree in industrial engineering he entered the Army as a second lieutenant in the weeks leading up to the Cuban missile crisis in October of 1962.

The two years in the Army proved to be a valuable experience for Evans and gave him his first real experience working in a large, complex organization.

He was stationed in a headquarters company in Fort Sill, Okla., that served all four military branches. He ended up doing staff work for a cagey Air Force colonel who would become his mentor. "Just about every other week he would call me into his office and tell me, `I'm going to tell you what just happened at that meeting.'"

After completing military duty, Evans attended business school at the University of Chicago, earning his doctorate in what was then the emerging new field of operations research. It was at Chicago that Evans began collaborating on a project with Gerald Gould. Gould would leave Chicago to take a faculty job at Carolina, but their friendship and collaboration would continue. It was Gould who told him about the position opening in Carolina's business school and urged him to come down and take a look.

Evans joined the faculty at the business school in January of 1970. Four years later, in the spring of 1974, Chancellor Ferebee Taylor extended him a formal invitation to lunch. Taylor characterized the lunch meeting as something he would like to do with all members of the faculty. But there were 2,000 faculty members at the time, and Evans could not help but feel after he left the chancellor that he had just been interviewed for something.

Several months later, Evans was named to one of the two new special assistant jobs that Taylor created in the South Building. Evans would spend three years in the South Building under Taylor -- three years that go a long way in explaining why he has chosen to stay at Carolina for the next three decades.

"That three-year experience gave me the opportunity to meet people inside and outside the University and to develop an appreciation for the very special relationship that exists between this university and the people of this state," Evans said. "I might have still learned those things over a long period of time, but I wouldn't have learned them so quickly or so deeply."

It was an appointment that came with no direct authority, but a chance to do a little bit of everything. One of the first assignments that Taylor gave him was working with alumni from the class of 1938. They had all lived through the Depression. Many had fought and survived the war that ended it. All of them who came to Evans had had experiences that convinced them that students needed to know more about the world than what Carolina was then teaching them. Their idea was to convert some residence halls into a center for international living. While their specific idea never materialized, Evans believes that the roots of Carolina's international program today can be traced back to that group's idea.

Path to success
In the early years of the business school, there were half a dozen faculty members, long retired now, who set the path for the MBA program to develop into the nationally ranked program it would become. When Evans became dean of the business school in 1978, he not only remembered their example but sought to follow it.

His longest and most productive assignment as an administrator was his nine-year run as dean. It was a crucial period for the business school for a host of reasons, Evans said. In the aftermath of the Vietnam War, it suddenly became respectable again for a student to major in business, Evans said. But enrollment swelled to the point that professors were lecturing in front of 300 students for a single class.

The choices were clear: Either faculty had to be added, enrollment had to be cut or the quality of the educational experience would suffer. After three years of study and negotiations with faculty, the decision was made to cut enrollment in half.

Another major decision was to begin a master's of accounting program. In the late 1970s, starting such a program was no easy sell and strong arguments were made on both sides. A third decision was to recognize the need to establish an executive MBA program that would enable people with full-time jobs to earn their degrees.

An assortment of other special assignments followed after Evans returned to teaching at the business school. In July of 1999, two weeks before his death, Chancellor Michael Hooker asked Evans to fill in for a few months as vice chancellor for finance and administration. Evans would end up serving in the position for 16 months to allow time for a new chancellor to be hired and for the new chancellor to form his own administrative team.

A career with few regrets
Winning a Massey award is a special privilege, Evans said, partly because he had the good fortune of meeting C. Knox Massey and finding out for himself the kind of man he was and what he and his family have meant to the University.

"It's very gratifying to me to win this award because I know of the Massey family's enormous generosity and all the things it has made possible for this University," he said. "It has great significance for me that I've been flattered in this way."

As for his career at Carolina, unplanned though it may have been, Evans has no complaints and few regrets. Leaders at Carolina have cultivated a culture of collaboration that has served to keep meeting shared goals more important than feeding individual egos. And that may be one reason why Evans saw no reason to leave for somewhere else.

"I guess I feel that by accident I've had the opportunity to do a wide variety of very interesting things with a number of enormously talented people. I wouldn't go back and undo anything, but a whole lot more happened to me by chance than by plan, that's for sure."

Here's a reason why. "I figured out a number of years ago that one of the forms of compensation most valuable to me is the chance to work with people whose values I respect," Evans said.

And after all these years, he suspects, that compensation may explain why he's still around -- ready for the ball to be thrown his way yet again.

Editor's note: This story is one of a series featuring 2002 winners of the C. Knox Massey Distinguished Service Award. The late C. Knox Massey of Durham created the awards in 1980 to recognize "unusual, meritorious or superior contributions" by University employees. The award is supported by the Massey-Weatherspoon Fund created by three generations of Massey and Weatherspoon families. Chancellor James Moeser selected the honorees from nominations submitted by the campus. They each received an award citation and $5,000 stipend.


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