January 28, 2024

Evans School remembers the life and legacy of Nancy Evans

The Evans School joins our community and state in mourning the passing of Nancy Bell Evans – a champion for civic life in our region and tireless advocate for the UW and the Evans School. A leader and innovator, Nancy served as a founder and chair of the Friends of Cancer Lifeline, national chair of the First Ladies’ Mental Health Month, founding trustee of Planned Parenthood of Olympia, and founder of the Governor’s Mansion Foundation, amongst other roles.

As President Ana Mari Cauce shared in a statement, “Nancy was a true civic leader who dedicated her life to helping others, including UW students and the state we all serve. She was not only a supporter of the UW’s Evans School, she was an inspiration to the many students who will follow her footsteps into public service. Nancy’s advocacy for early childhood education has benefitted countless Washington children, and her work supporting health care – from cancer care to public health efforts – has helped so many people live healthier, longer lives. And Nancy’s support for the arts and historic preservation, including preserving the Governor’s Mansion, has brought so much joy and beauty to our state. Nancy’s passion was boundless and she combined intelligence with heart in everything she did.”

Dean Jodi Sandfort added her own reflections, “As a newcomer to the Pacific Northwest, Nancy welcomed me with open arms and shared poignant stories about nonprofits and politics, here and in D.C.  She and her family represent the best tradition of deep dialogue and discussion that helps us work across our differences for the good of us all.”  

Dan and Nancy Evans in front of Parrington Hall

Nancy played an instrumental role in advancing the mission and impact of the Evans School. She supported the launch the Nancy Bell Evans Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy (NBEC), which elevated the nonprofit and social impact sectors through research, education, and leadership development. For nearly two decades, NBEC provided high-quality leadership in the nonprofit and philanthropic sector, including graduating more than 300 nonprofit leaders from our Nonprofit Executive Leadership Institute (NELI) and Propel Leadership Institute.  The legacy of that work is now being continued through the Evans Policy Innovation Collaborative.

Nancy served as co-chair for the Campaign for Evans, fueling the transformational remodel of Parrington Hall that provides learning and convening spaces for our faculty and students so that they can seek innovative solutions to the world’s most challenging public problems. Nancy’s legacy lives on in many ways at the Evans School, including the Nancy Bell Evans Endowment for Excellence, which continues to propel research, education, and outreach programs that support service and civic engagement.

Nancy and Dan Evans with film producer John Sharify and Dean Jodi Sandfort, 2022

In conjunction with school’s 60th anniversary in 2022, Dean Sandfort commissioned a short documentary about Dan Evans’ career, of which Nancy was a key player. Nancy was the youngest First Lady in Washington’s history and advanced several causes during her husband’s three-term tenure, including the restoration and preservation of the Governor’s Mansion. 

“Nancy’s commitment to our school and the UW community are simply remarkable. She always had a thoughtful insight, a good question, and word of support,” shared Dean Sandfort. “She so enjoyed interacting with students and felt proud that the public service legacy of her family was institutionalized at a world-class School at the University of Washington.” We are deeply grateful for the transformational impact she has had during her lifetime and the legacy that will live on through our programs and people she has touched.

The Evans School community extends our deepest condolences to Nancy’s family as we hold dear the memory of her years of service and dedication to inspiring public service in all.