The Bradley community is mourning the loss of social work professor Wayne Evens, who passed last weekend on April 16.
University President Gary Roberts sent out a school-wide email April 17 notifying campus of his passing and that campus flags would be flown at half staff for three days.
Evens began teaching at Bradley in 2001 and served as an associate professor of social work. Additionally, he served as the program director of the social work program until 2016. He received his bachelor’s in psychology with honors from Indiana University in 1964. Evens continued his education by receiving his master’s of social work in 1989 and a doctorate in political sociology in 1996, both from the University of Iowa.
For the students who knew him as a professor, they said Evens played an integral role in the shaping of their future careers.
“Dr. Evens prepared me for a career in social work by giving me his real life experiences and how he dealt with each situation,” Annie Kapecki, a junior social work major, said. “He taught me how to be a great social worker in the future through his interactive classes … I do not think I would have learned so much in my years at Bradley without Wayne being such an amazing, down-to-earth professor.”
Evens was more than just an educational mentor, according to Kapecki, who said his students saw him as a part of their Bradley family.
“Dr. Evens, or as most students call him, Wayne, was an extremely down to earth and sarcastic person. He loved to make people laugh,” Kapecki said. “He also cared about everyone he met and gave the best advice. Dr. Evens gave off a grandpa-like personality. He showed he had wisdom to give and would do anything for his students. All Bradley students will remember him for his style of dress, cowboy boots and a suit. He fed the squirrels every day outside of Bradley Hall.”
Evens’s contributions to campus didn’t end with the classroom. He often volunteered his time to work for the Peoria Homeless Coalition and served as the district chair for the National Association of Social Workers. At Bradley, he served on University Senate as a senator and served as president and past president of the Bradley chapter of the American Association of University Professors. Through these positions, he worked in support of shared governance and faculty rights.
Evens’ personality and contributions to campus will leave a lasting legacy on the social work department, according to Kapecki.
“Wayne will be deeply missed, but his time he had with us as students will be cherished forever,” Kapecki said. “He has become the motivation for so many students to one day become amazing social workers, just like him.”
According to a statement released by the faculty and staff of the Bradley Liberal Arts and Sciences College, Evens personality and dedication to his students made a deep impact on all who knew him.
“Dr. Evens was a gentle giant of a man who was a tireless advocate for all persons who lack voice, privilege or agency,” the statement said. “His colleagues variously describe him as down to earth, welcoming, helpful, fair, open-minded … but perhaps his most defining quality was a constant, pervasive passion for social justice – a trait which he carefully and patiently instilled in his social work students.”
The statement also touched on how he will be remembered on campus as a fun-loving person who immensely cared about all he met in the Bradley community.
“Wayne was a recognizable feature on campus, with his signature cowboy boots, furry winter hat, pocketful of peanuts for the campus squirrels and always-ready smile,” the statement said. “He loved teaching and interacting with students in and out of the classroom was the highpoint of his day, every day.”