Bill devotes the majority of his time to the Air Force National Guard, the church, his family and James Madison University. To each he gives selfless and unconditional love and wisdom, and you will hear how he has affected lives in each of those areas, in a story I am calling "All Together Bill."
To the men and women of the South Carolina Air National Guard, he is known as "Shep" and "Padre" ‹ and from all accounts he serves as their shepherd and their father in the fullest capacity. Lt. Col. Bill Evans has served in the S.C. Air National Guard since 1984. He is the senior wing chaplain of the169th Fighter Wing, the 157th Fighter Squadron, the 240th Combat Communications Squadron and the 245th Air Traffic Control Squadron. In other words, more than 1,200 soldiers come to Lt. Col. Evans for solace, guidance and faith.
He has averaged 50 to 75 days of military service a year over the past 12 years, far more than what is required of him. Lt. Col. Evans served his country in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Allied Force in Kosovo, Operations Northern and Southern Watch, Operation Noble Eagle, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In the words of George B. Patrick III, chief of staff of the S.C. Air National Guard, "Bill 'Padre' Evans Š has dramatically touched the lives of a countless number of men and women serving in uniform all over the world! ... His ability to earn the trust and confidence of the people around him has been invaluable to morale and motivation Š it is a privilege and honor to call this man of deep dedication to God, family and country my friend."
A "deep dedication to God" has been a trademark of Bill Evans for many years. In 1979, Bill served as pastor for three medical units at the Duke University Medical Center. Following a two-year period working at Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church in Pomaria, S.C., Bill became pastor of the largest church in the state; and he was dedicated to his congregation at Trenholm Road United Methodist Church in Columbia, S.C., for ten years. Since moving to Harrisonburg in 1994, Bill has devoted himself to the Harrisonburg First Church of the Nazarene. He has given openly to the church, sharing his experiences from the Air National Guard and counseling couples and families. Bill is beloved by fellow church members - it usually takes him and his family an additional fifteen minutes to leave a service due to the number of individuals who are drawn to come and speak with him. The senior pastor at the church, Rev. Kerry Willis, describes Evans as, "a servant leader. In my life, I encounter a vast amount of people with great minds and many people with great hearts. Rarely do I encounter Š people who possess both. Bill Evans is one of those rare souls."
That great heart is shown in his family life. Bill Evans is a dedicated and loving husband and father of three children. His youngest children, Alexa and Joshua, describe him as a kind, patient and funny man who seems to get along with everyone. Whether it is putting on a puppet show or taking long walks, they love every moment with their dad. Bill's wife, Cyndi, puts her love for her husband simply, "he is my hero."
To all of his students and colleagues here at JMU, Dr. Bill Evans is a bright light. He earned his bachelor's degree in religion from Wofford College and went on to obtain his master's of divinity at Duke University. He earned his educational specialist and doctoral degrees in counselor education at the University of South Carolina. However, Dr. Evans brings so much more to JMU than his impressive degrees.
His open door policy represents his endless giving to the university. When students need help, Dr. Evans is the first person many turn to; and he is willing to help at any hour. JMU's psychology students recently rated him the "most accessible professor" in the department. No amount of papers to grade, research or writing will keep Dr. Evans from dropping his endeavors and responding when there is a knock on his office door. Lives are truly changed because of him.
He is an amazing professor, opening new worlds of thought to students privileged to take his classes. Friend and colleague, Mark Warner, describes Dr. Evans as a "teacher extraordinaire Š who connects with his students [on] a deep level ‹ challenges them, inspires their best work and enables them to exceed their own expectations." His file of abundant letters from past students is evidence that Dr. Evans teaches lessons that affect individuals long after they have graduated from JMU.
Dr. Evans is a powerful mentor and motivator. A leader himself, he empowers others to be leaders as well. Beneficiaries of his inspiration describe the powerful way in which Dr. Evans was the spark, as well as the model, that enabled them to achieve great things.
Dr. Evans lends a considerable amount of his time here at JMU to the Psychology Peer Advising students. The advisers expressed how much he means to them this way: "A genuinely compassionate man, Dr. Evans represents a person who is always willing to serve others before himself and constantly challenges us to be the very best versions of ourselves. Dr. Evans listens without judging, motivates without lecturing and inspires the very hearts and souls within us all."
I often find myself wordless and teary-eyed thinking about how much Bill Evans has meant to me in the brief, but unbelievably meaningful time, that I have known him. In Bill, I have found a level of faith, a level of caring and a level of character, which I have never known. From Bill I have received guidance, love and inspiration, which have truly shaped the person who I am. As my professor, mentor and friend, I cherish each interaction that I have with Bill Evans and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.
Lieutenant colonel, pastor, dad, husband, professor, colleague, mentor and friend - all avenues through which one man has inspired many people. His creed "Live to Learn, Learn to Love; and Love to Live, Leave a Positive Legacy," has inspired others to truly learn, love and live.
Now, the JMU community would like to thank this great man. Ladies and gentleman, it is with honor, pride and pure admiration - words that just do not do justice - I present the "all together one" Award to Bill Evans.