Dr. Prescott Evarts, Jr., who had educated generations of students over the span of his 50-year career at the University, passed away at the age of 79 on Aug. 28.
Evarts was a beloved faculty member, influential professor, and a core member of the University community.
“Education was very much alive to him,” said Dr. Susan Goulding, Chair of the English Department, colleague, and friend of Evarts. “He really wanted students to learn,” she continued.
Evart’s passion for education began at an early age, when he attended New York City’s Buckley School and Saint Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire.
He then went on to study Greek History and Literature at Harvard University.
After receiving his BA, Evarts continued on to Columbia University where he completed his Ph.D. in English Literature.
Although literature was a large interest of Evarts’, he also stayed very active.
He played football at Harvard Law School, and ran track in high school.
He finished 17 marathons, including the Boston Marathon.
Evarts even had some students accompany him on his runs near campus. During his freshman year at Harvard, Evarts won a boxing championship.
“There’s an aesthetic to sports he really appreciated; he talked about grace as an athlete,” Goulding said.
She also noted that he really admired Joan Benoit, the first woman to be an Olympic marathon champion.
His athleticism and fighting heart often carried over into his lessons of literature, which were filled with passion and vitality.
William Jones, a junior computer science and software engineering student, shares his experience being in Evarts’ class. He said, “He was very knowledgeable and even though literature is a required course, he understood this and was fair and made it fun for everyone.”
Jones continued, “He brought a lot to the table, as far as experiences and understanding of the subject matter. He had the ability to learn and succeed that you had that ability. That’s what I like most about him.”
Evarts’ passionate teaching, and understanding demeanor has made him a memorable professor to students in any study here at Monmouth.
Evarts taught classical texts alongside modern works and appreciated a wide variety of literature. “He was curious and engaged in these expressions of art and wanted to share them,” Goulding noted.
Evarts had a love for traditional text and the contemporary poems of young writers.
He has had poetry published in Beloit Poetry Journal, Cimarron Review, Harvard Magazine, Hudson Review, Kansas Quarterly, Nebraska Review.
Goulding described alumni who remembered specific comments he had written on their papers or conversations in conferences. “You don’t remember that unless it has an impact,” she said.
“He wanted people to better at who they were, especially students,” she continued.
Michael Thomas, Associate Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences, said, “His own curiosity is what drove him to be such an impactful teacher.”
Evarts read for his own pleasure and enjoyed sharing literature with his friends and colleagues. Thomas said, “In the 12 years of Visiting Writers Series, he would create handouts of the writer’s’ work and drop it in everyone’s mailbox just to introduce them to the work.”
“He loved to spend time out in the natural world which is a part of his classical poetic make-up,” Thomas continued.
Room 406 of Wilson Annex is as he had left it. Beneath the window which overlooks the trees in front of Wilson Hall, rests a desk covered in printouts, books, and his own notes.
To the right of the window sits a bookshelf filled to the ceiling with Greek classics and traditional British literature. On the left of the door is a shelf about half way up the wall, has stacks of books from the authors featured in the Visiting Writers series and newer collections of poetry.
Some novels or pages of poetry had sticky notes falling out between the pages where Evarts had written comments. His love and admiration for the various forms of classical literature and openness for contemporary art is represented in his humble office between his packed bookshelves.
“He always wanted to know what was going on with you, and what you were reading,” remembered Thomas.
There were only two photos in his office, both of his wife.” Goulding said. Evarts and Janine (Gaubert) Evarts were married 54 years and have two sons and three grandchildren.
Brittany Cote a senior English student, who works as the office assistant for the English Department said, “Dr. Evarts was a really humorous guy; he was always cracking jokes in class. He was really passionate in class and would read aloud with such vigor. He wanted students to share that passion. Shakespeare and Milton were his favorite. He really loved British Literature.” Cote comments on the absence of Evarts in the Wilson Annex, “You could really tell in the department; it was somber. In the summer he was one of the only professors that would show up every single day.”
Evarts will remain a treasured and influential member of the University community. His teachings, his literary work, and most importantly, his memory, will be cherished for years to come.
The university is currently planning a memorial in honor of Evarts.
Donations to the Upper Valley Land Trust in Hanover, HH, were asked to be made in memory of Evarts.
“Dingleton Hill, Transcendental” by Prescott Evarts, Jr.
I have run it enough to know
the barcodes of trunk shadows
that mean the summit’s near
the fields then ridging down
toward the hidden river,
Vermont hills beyond
like hawk’s wings shaped
in lavenders and green
and flecked with mist and snow;
the road descending past
with its alleys of hedge,
joining the river road
for a level mile before
the wooden covered bridge
that smells of sanding salt
and remnants of golden rod
where I breathe all seasons in.
Published in ‘The Index of American Periodical Verse: 1982’
IMAGE COURTESY of Jim Remy