The Last Best Good Story
Not Your Father's Generation
Hooked On Teaching
C'est Missoula Vie
AROUND THE OVAL
About the Montanan
by Joyce Brusin
Irene Evers loved a good story. She collected many of them in the thirty-eight years she served as UM's forestry and assistant science librarian, but when she retired in 1997 at the age of eighty-one, she hadn't yet told the best one. Evers left her entire estate, estimated at $650,000, to the Mansfield Library and the School of Forestry when she died in March 1999.
"Her guide in life was caring for her patrons," remembers Karen Hatcher, retired dean of library services. "Not all patrons come to the library knowing exactly what they are looking for. Her skill was in eliciting what a person really wanted. People wrote to her from all over the country with reference questions." Evers' colleagues at the library honored her diligence and persistence when they made her the first recipient of the annual Irene Evers Award for Outstanding Staff Member in 1993.
Two years later the Irene Evers Endowment for Forestry was established by the library, forestry school and friends of Irene Evers to celebrate her 80th birthday. It began with contributions from the faculty, staff and alumni who had known her best. The greetings they sent along with their checks are recorded in a two-inch-high stack of cards, which Evers, typically, indexed.
One couple who had sought Evers' help as undergraduates in the 1970s wrote, "Your librarianship was not your greatest gift. Your honest regard for each of your students is what we remember." A graduate from the 1960s wrote, "Happy birthday and congratulations to a guiding light that enabled us to do our best." Before Evers' death last year, the endowment established in her honor had grown to $32,000. Now half of her bequest will be added; earned interest will buy books, periodicals and documents for the Mansfield Library's forestry collection.
"Endowments make a critical difference in our ability to acquire the resources that our scholars and researchers need," says Frank D'Andraia, who replaced Hatcher as dean of library services this spring. "The significant academic research libraries more and more depend upon endowments to build their collections of excellence."
The other half of Evers' bequest will fund scholarships for students engaged in forestry research projects. Forestry Dean Perry Brown recalls that Evers often remembered her favorite students with a touch of humor. "She'd spot someone across the room and chuckle as she remembered helping them with something years before," he says. "Her comments were never mean or derisive. Just the sort of stories that would warm you and make you chuckle with her."
"Irene was a product of the era she grew up in," Hatcher says. Evers dressed simply and continued to live in the modest home she and her late husband had bought in 1959. Long after colleagues began urging her to trade it in, she drove an old green Dodge. "We had a big party at the library when she got a new car," recalls Hatcher. "She's a wonderful example of someone who cared so much about the mission that they made sacrifices in order to see that mission continue. She loved her forestry boys and girls."
Time and careful planning explain the generous total of Evers' bequest. "Irene Evers loved the library and the School of Forestry," says Steve Polhemus, her financial adviser. "She was a person of very modest meanswaste not, want not. She was very interested in setting aside what was excess in a sound investment account, and she knew for many years that she wanted to leave her resources to the School of Forestry and the library."
"The storyteller in her was always there," says Jennifer Jensen, a friend and colleague of Evers at the library. "She would share memories of her childhood growing up with her aunts on an old homestead and other memories of her family. 'I've got a real funny,' she'd say when she wanted to tell you a joke. I like to think that she was chuckling when we found out about her gift. 'I've got a real funny,' she'd have said."
Joyce Brusin is a graduate of UM's creative writing program and a frequent contributor to the Montanan.
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