Tears, smiles and laughter filled the Cora I. Grove Spiritual Center as more than 150 university and community members came together to celebrate the life of former Shippensburg University professor Margaret Evans.
Evans retired from SU in the spring of 2013 after nearly two decades of teaching. She lost her battle with cancer less than a year later on Jan. 1, 2014.
The ceremony was held on the afternoon of Tuesday, April 15. The Rev. Jan Bye welcomed guests with opening remarks before Evans’ husband Arnold “Art” Berman took over.
Berman provided an intimate look into Evan’s eccentric life. He added context to her journey from her humble roots in upstate New York to her time in Africa while serving in the Peace Corps, and to her adventures in South Korea.
Evans ultimately ended up in Shippensburg. Berman added humor to the service with light-hearted anecdotes about Evans’ love for animals, adding that he pictures hundreds of cats testifying to her good nature at the gates of heaven.
While at SU, Evans taught an array of courses in the communication/journalism department, spanning from entry-level communication classes to classes focusing on her passion, which was photography.
Michael Drager, associate professor of communication/journalism, also spoke at the service. He took over Evans’ photography classes after her retirement.
“I hope that every time I enter a classroom some of Margaret’s spirit will be with me,” he said.
Drager described Evans as one of the kindest people he had ever met. Like Berman’s remarks, Drager’s sentimental speech was lightened with humor.
He talked about their shared love of photography but explained they also had their differences.
“She was a cat person. I am a dog person,” he joked.
He also mentioned Evans’ infamous email blasts that would go out anytime a cat needed a home, which incited smiles from many audience members.
Another communication/journalism professor, Kim Garris, spoke next.
“Margaret’s resume was not how I knew her. She was my friend,” Garris said.
She went on to describe Evans as the “glue” of the communication/journalism department, emphasizing her ability to handle predicaments with grace and without drama.
She also pointed out Evans’ passion for promoting camaraderie among women, while reminiscing on the girls-only lunches that Evans facilitated between female faculty members. Garris ended her speech by asking her female co-workers to get together for lunch again soon and carry on Evans’ tradition.
After Garris finished speaking, Bye opened the floor to anyone in attendance who wanted to say a few words about Evans. Nearly one dozen people took advantage of the opportunity to share their memories of Evans.
Ben Culbertson, associate art professor at SU, and Trisha Grace, president of SHAPE Gallery, spoke about Evans’ dedication to SHAPE, specifically the gallery’s biggest fundraiser in history.
“She poured her heart and soul into that event,” Grace said. Evans was an active member at SHAPE, even with her illness. “She was an artist until the very end,” Culbertson added.
During Evans’ final months, she was often wearing a backpack. Though not many were aware, that backpack contained her chemotherapy treatment, which she was feeding her the medication through a tube under her clothes.
While many patients choose to rest during their treatment, Evans went about her daily life, volunteering at the SHAPE Gallery and staying involved in the community all while simultaneously receiving chemotherapy.
“She’s the bravest woman I have ever met,” said Jose Ricardo, interim associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at SU. Ricardo spoke fondly about his memories of sharing a hallway with Evans, when their offices were both in Rowland Hall.
After several more heartfelt words, Berman extended his thanks to everyone for attending the service before Rev. Bye closed with a moment of silence.
After the service, guests gathered in the lobby for light refreshments, where many continued to share memories of Evans and informally chat about the impact she left on their lives.