A $1 million gift from Friends of Children’s Hospital is creating a chair in honor of one of the state’s leaders in pediatrics, Dr. Owen B. “Bev” Evans, and his wife, Lynn. The two were instrumental in founding the nonprofit.
The Dr. Owen B. and Lynn M. Evans Chair of Pediatric Neurology was announced Feb. 10 along with the donation. Dr. Colette Parker, chief of the Division of Pediatric Neurology, will be the first to hold the honor.
Evans followed Dr. Blair E. Batson as the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s second pediatrics chair following five years as chief of pediatric neurology. With the goal of building a children’s hospital, Evans was one of the founders of Friends of Children’s Hospital.
“Dr. Evans led the children’s hospital when resources were few and the need was immense,” said John Scarbrough, board chairman of Friends. “It took vision, stubbornness, and his great personality during those days to seek solutions for patients. These constraints led him to founding Friends of Children’s Hospital in 1989 to grow awareness, voluntarism and fundraising for the children’s hospital. Now 34 years later, Friends continues our all-out pursuit of these values and the vision that Dr. Evans created for the nonprofit so many years ago.”
The BankPlus Community Room of the Kathy and Joe Sanderson Tower at Children’s of Mississippi, where the presentation was held, was filled with well-wishers, former colleagues of Evans, faculty members, Friends of Children’s Hospital leaders and supporters of the state’s only children’s hospital.
Dr. Mary Taylor, professor and Suzan B. Thames Chair of Pediatrics, said the creation of the Evans Chair is a “meaningful way to honor Dr. Evans, who has such an immense impact on pediatrics, and support the mission of Children’s of Mississippi, helping children with neurological conditions reach their full potential. We are so grateful for this generous gift from Friends of Children’s Hospital as a partner in pediatrics.”
Evans, an alumnus of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, came to UMMC in 1983 after being recruited by Batson, also a Vanderbilt graduate. “I was so impressed with the faculty. Everyone was working hard and practicing good medicine.”
He became the “chief pediatric neurologist and a faculty of one.” He was on call 24/7 to care for the children in the state with neurological conditions.
By 1989, Evans was tapped to lead the Department of Pediatrics at UMMC as its chair. “I went in with a wish list of additional faculty members, a new budget, and a computer.” The department, at that point, did not have its first desktop computer yet. He also requested the authorization to establish a community group to fundraise, build awareness and encourage volunteerism for Mississippi’s only children’s hospital.
Following his appointment as chair, Dr. Evans and his wife, Lynn, worked tirelessly to create Friends of Children’s Hospital. From the very beginning, Lynn was instrumental at Friends of Children’s Hospital and her dedication and hard work ensured the group’s success.
A founding member of Friends and its first treasurer, Lynn Evans launched Bank Plus Presents Light A Light, the nonprofit’s first fundraiser and one that continues each December as a Christmas tree lighting for the children’s hospital.
With a keen interest in politics, Lynn Evans became a lobbyist for the Mississippi Press Association, then March of Dimes. She finished her lobbying career as an advocate for the Mississippi Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She was instrumental in raising the Mississippi driver’s license age to 16 and for seat belt and car seat requirements for motorists.
She served as president of the Jackson Public Schools board and was active in the PTA. She was also president of Mississippi Common Cause.
After inspiration from Dr. Evans and encouragement from Lynn, “Friends of Children’s Hospital was off and running,” said Suzan Thames, first board chair of Friends of Children’s Hospital. “We were a fired-up bunch. We called on corporations, begged friends and hosted events. We flipped pancakes and held barbecues.”
After years of hard work and fundraising, Dr. Evans’ and Lynn’s dream of a new children’s hospital became a reality with the opening of the five-story Batson Tower in 1997. Two more floors were added in 2004.
“Bev, you are a true visionary,” Thames said, “and I can think of no one who is more worthy of this honor. Thank you and Lynn for your undying dedication to the sick and injured children of Mississippi.”
Parker, chief of the Division of Pediatric Neurology, said being named the Dr. Owen B. and Lynn M. Evans Chair of Pediatric Neurology is among the most meaningful honors of her career.
“Dr. Evans was a mentor to me and many other pediatric specialists and subspecialists,” she said.
Pediatric neurology, once a one-man division, has grown at Children’s of Mississippi, she said. “Those early seeds you planted grew deep roots and are flourishing.”
Today, the Division of Pediatric Neurology includes eight board-certified pediatric neurologists, each of whom has had at least part of their medical training at UMMC. The division cares for more than 1,100 a month at the Sanderson Tower clinics, with hundreds more getting diagnostic tests at the division’s electrophysiology lab in the Batson Tower.
“By caring for so many children over his career, working toward the construction of the Batson Tower, and helping found Friends of Children’s Hospital with Lynn, he has touched the lives of countless Mississippi families,” Parker said. “His career has been an inspiration.”
By Annie Oeth/UMMC Public Affairs