Meet Our Donors: The Evans Family

This article was originally printed in the Summer 2021 issue of Views from the Hill.

Robert ’54 HGS, David ’81, and Gwen ’84 talk about the people and principles that inspire their giving

"To whom much is given, much will be required.” It is a simple, yet powerful call to action that has always guided members of the Evans family. “There are several people who have touched my life who are a shining example of that,” said David Evans ’81. “The first would be my mother (Joyce Evans), who continues to imbue us with a deep responsibility to care for those less fortunate.”

That sense of responsibility, and a desire to honor the people who embody and model that ideal, was the inspiration for the Evans Family Scholarship Fund. Established in April of this year, the fund supports three full scholarships: the Joyce Evans P’81 ’84 Scholarship, the Rebecca West P’81 Scholarship, and the James Calcagnini ’80 Scholarship.

David ’81, his sister, Gwen ’84, and their father, Robert ’54 HGS, sat down recently to answer a few questions about the scholarships, the people they honor, and the principles that drive the family’s philanthropic goals. 

Tell us about the Evans Family Scholarship Fund and the three people it honors.

Taking inspiration from his beloved Hopkins history teacher, Kenneth Rood, David takes a broad perspective to introduce the thinking behind the Evans Family Scholarship Fund. “Hopkins is an institution that predates the U.S., and that means many people who went to Hopkins have guided our nation throughout its history. All Hopkins alumni are stewards for our nation, and the ultimate responsibility of a steward is to give back more than you take.” At this time in our history, he adds, such efforts should help make our society more equitable and inclusive. Key to that goal is providing greater access to high-quality education that can change lives. The Evans Family Scholarships are focused on addressing that need by providing significant financial assistance to New Haven City and County students who wish to attend Hopkins, and Joyce Evans is a big part of why the family chose education as a focus for their giving. “Our mother taught us that education is the pathway to life – the tool for building a better society for everyone, but particularly to help people less fortunate than we are. All children deserve that same support, and creating this scholarship in honor of her personifies her most cherished guidance to us.” 

David cites another mother who inspired the family’s second scholarship: the late Rebecca West, parent of his close friend and classmate, Arnold West ’81 and an inspiration to David throughout his Hopkins years. “She taught me one of my core beliefs: ‘You will never be great in life if you do not believe in something more important than yourself.’ Rebecca lived that every day, and we are in vital need of more people like her.” He hopes the Rebecca West P’81 Scholarship will go a long way toward filling that need.  David and Arnold’s wives, Joan and Nadine, shared this desire to recognize Rebecca’s inspirational impact.

James Calcagnini ’80, David’s “brother from another mother” both at Hopkins and to the present day, is the inspiration for the third scholarship. “He was the best kind of friend to have growing up – always pushing you to see the positive. He believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself.” David recalls a very sad day when James called to tell him he had Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS). Since then, David has marveled at his friend’s continued strength, resilience and positivity. “James has shown courage, grace and that believing in the worthiness of something more than one’s own life is the true meaning of greatness. Those values are the building blocks of a just and fair society.”

Why did you feel it was the right time to establish this fund? 

Gwen, a member of the Hopkins Committee of Trustees, says the timing for creating the Evans Family Scholarship Fund was serendipitous. The year 2021 marks David’s 40th Hopkins Reunion; at the same time, she has been very involved as a Trustee in the development of Head of School Kai Bynum’s Strategic Plan for Hopkins. “One of the pieces of that plan is reaffirming Hopkins’ connection to New Haven; another is 
growing our financial aid budget. Knowing that these are priorities for Hopkins, we discussed creating a scholarship that could provide opportunities to students from New Haven City or County as a way of strengthening those connections.”  

David believes that at this point in the life of the School, inclusiveness, access and affordability should be key focus points, and now is the right moment to lead by example. “We need to do this [support financial aid], and we need to do it many times over. If we are collective in that action together, we can make a change. Children need that opportunity, and this is a good place to start.” 

If you could paint a picture of the Hopkins of the future, what would it be?

Gwen: “An inclusive place that fosters a love of learning and community engagement. I hope Hopkins is able to imbue future generations with those ideals.” 

David: “Let’s make Hopkins a place where more are able to receive the same educational opportunities we were so fortunate to have. If you really want change in our society, this is how we get there – by giving more people the cure for educational inequity. My message to the Hopkins community is that whether you realize it or not, Hopkins made you stewards of our society, and it’s important that together we help those who need it most with the gift of a Hopkins education. We all need to do this for future generations, and the time is now.”
Robert adds that giving back isn’t just about donating funds. It is also important to give service – something we should all strive to do. Describing his own philosophy of giving, he refers to tzedakah, the Hebrew word for “righteous living.” Tzedakah points to one’s ethical obligation to better the lives of the less fortunate. The same, he says, should be true for Hopkins. “In order for Hopkins to carry out its mission, and to be the place we all want it to be in our society, we have to give service by mentoring younger, less fortunate people. Tell and show them experience, love and caring about what is right, what is good, and how we can all get there by being one group of people. If we can get there, we can have a better world, and Hopkins 
can be an even better place than it is today.”