J. Morris Evans '43 1921–2017
The emeritus member of the Haverford College Board of Managers died Dec. 16.
Haverford College Emeritus Board Member J. Morris “Morrie” Evans ’43 of Gwynedd, Pa., who served as president of the Corporation for most of the 1980s and generously supported Magill Library, died Dec. 16 at home. He was 96.
Evans was born in 1921, and lived at the Awbury Arboretum, a multi-family compound in Philadelphia, given to the City when Morrie was a child. Shortly after Evans graduation in January, 1944 he married Anne Tall, a high school classmate from Germantown Friends School. They were an inseparable couple for 68 years, until her death in 2012, and raised five children. In 1944, they began their lives together by living in New Jersey and Connecticut, while Morrie served his country as a conscientious objector, assigned to manual labor on farms.
Following the war, he was hired by the Philadelphia Quartz Company where he began his career as an accounting clerk for $175 a month. The business had been started by his great-great grandfather to make soap and candles. Subsequently, the Quartz Company transitioned into the manufacture of soluble silicates and eventually became the PQ Corporation.
He rose through the ranks of PQ, becoming Vice- President & Treasurer, developing new markets in Mexico, Europe, Pakistan and South America, and gaining a seat on the Board. Then in 1973, he was named chief executive officer and Chairman of the Board. When Morrie began at PQ, it was exclusively a North American operation. By the mid-1970’s, it had grown to serve diverse global markets with 62 plants in 17 countries on five continents.
“Most rewarding for me at PQ was negotiating major contracts and agreements, participating in the organization and team building, leading the long range planning, and maintaining while expanding PQ’s philosophy and traditions on employee and community relations and business ethics,” he wrote in 1993 as part of a 50th reunion biography. “Much of the philosophy and many of the traditions [of PQ] stemmed from the founder’s Quaker beliefs and his admonition to his sons ‘…to dwell under a proper regard for the best things,’ words that ring as true and are as needed today as over yesteryears.” He also served a term on the board of the Chemical Manufacturers Association.
Though a businessman by vocation, Evans was a historian by avocation. He spent considerable energy on indexing the contents of more than 2,600 family letters, diaries, and records that spanned nearly two centuries, or six generations, from 1732 to 1911. In 1991, the J. Morris and Anne T. Evans Fund was established at Haverford to catalog and digitize the donations of the Cope Evans Collection of letters, which Evans began donating in 1992. Recently, he added family papers from the 19th century and his own letters, including some to his late wife, Anne.
“He has given substantial resources,” said Haverford head librarian Terry Snyder. “Morrie was interested in history and family history. Part of his legacy was making sure the richness of the Quaker experience and contributions to American culture are well documented and openly available to scholars for understanding a range of questions.” Around 2002, Evans wrote a book about Thomas Pym Cope.
The Cope Evans Collection, which Snyder describes as “extraordinarily rich,” includes letters, diaries, and other materials that offer scholars a picture of both Quaker and everyday life during the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as insight into issues of economics, reform education, and science. It is, she says, the centerpiece of the college’s internationally-known Quaker collection. The correspondence features many well-known family members, including Elizabeth Drinker (1735-1808), a diarist; Thomas Pym Cope (1768-1854), a merchant and philanthropist; Anna Braithwaite (1788-1859), a British Friends minister [not sure of her family relationship], and Edward Drinker Cope (1840-1897), a paleontologist and expert on extinct vertebrates.
The collection is particularly useful to scholars because Evans and the SNAVE Foundation, the philanthropic arm of his family, have funded the cataloguing and digitization of the collection as well as additional Quaker papers. “It allows scholars all over the world to access the records from their desktops and to understand the Quaker family experience in American history over generations,” Snyder says.
Evans, she says, was committed to innovation. To that end, his fund has supported digital scholarship projects such as Who Killed Sarah Stout?, which made a Clue-like game of solving the mystery of Quaker Sarah Stout’s curious death, and Beyond the Margin, which allowed interaction around early Haverford student rituals.
“Morrie loved this,” Snyder says. “He was always focused on innovative practice at the library, and he made sure Haverford was well positioned to realize innovation so students can grow and ask strong critical questions.”
She adds that Evans did “all of this with an astonishingly admirable level of humility and kindness. He was so smart and so thoughtful and so generous and so humble. Without him, we would not have been able to do this.”
Evans arrived at Haverford from Germantown Friends School as an athletic powerhouse in soccer and track & field and even tried his hand at basketball. As a junior, he won the Ernest P. Walton 1890 Cup, a feat he repeated the next year, when he was the captain of both the Track and Soccer teams. That same year, he took the coveted Varsity Cup, Haverford’s highest athletic award given to a senior. It recognizes “athletic accomplishments, sportsmanship, and leadership throughout their career.” He also was voted an All-America for soccer in 1940.
“This guy was an athlete, Haverford’s one real athlete,” said classmate John “Jack” Moon with whom he had stayed a friend over the years. “Morrie was into everything, high hurdles, soccer. You name it, he was in it, ran it, captained it. It was remarkable, really remarkable.”
A soccer write-up in the 1943 yearbook, The Record, noted that Evans “climaxed a brilliant season junior year by driving home the two goals that gave the Hornets a 2-1 win over Swarthmore. These tallies raised Evans’ total in Middle Atlantic League play to seven to give him second in individual scoring for the season.”
In 2009, he was inducted into the Thomas Glasser ’82 Hall of Achievement at Haverford for exceptional athletes. “One of the finest multi-sport athletes in the history of Haverford athletics,” begins the inductee write-up on the Athletic Department’s website. It notes that Evans won four varsity letters in track, three in soccer and one in basketball. In his three years on the varsity soccer squad, he helped the Fords achieve an 18-6 record and win two Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) championships. He booted home 21 goals over his college career.
“Evans seemed to rise to the occasion when the Fords needed a clutch performance,” the website says. “As a junior against arch-rival Swarthmore he scored both goals in a 2-1 victory to close out the season. In his final collegiate contest Evans scored the game's first goal in a 2-0 victory over the Garnet that helped preserve a perfect MAC campaign.”
He was no less accomplished in track. “As a sophomore, Evans emerged as the Scarlet and Black's top performer. He claimed an individual title in the low hurdles at the MAC championship.”
As a student, Evans was active in Students' Council and served in several class officer positions, trading off the top spot—president—with his classmate, the late John C. Whitehead ’43, during junior and senior years. Tall with dark hair, he was often pictured next to the fair-haired and shorter Whitehead. He was a permanent vice president for the class. He also was involved with the Customs Committee.
In the 1943 yearbook, his comments include “crafty Quake, never came out second best in a bargain,” “a treasury of Gilbert and Sullivan” and “that voice.”
Over his life, he was deeply involved with both of his alma maters, Germantown Friends School and Haverford College, where he first became a board member in 1968. He would go on to serve as president of the Corporation from 1979 to 1988, vice president from 1972 to 1979, and would later become an emeritus member of Haverford’s Board of Managers.
Evans was active in Germantown Friends Meeting, and on the Germantown Friends School Committee
Evans was a lifelong avid sailor, from Haversham, RI and Mount Desert Island, ME piloting Herreshoff Cat Boats as a boy to mid-life adventures on Barnegat Bay, NJ in a sailfish, a Hobie Cat and two modern gaff-rig craft. His love of sailing influenced his collection of art, and amplified his interest in merchant Thomas Pym Cope’s packet ships.
He enjoyed the game of golf, and was a member of The Philadelphia Cricket Club and The Divotees. He served as a president of the latter club, that was established in 1921 as one of several Quaker-based golf societies in the Delaware Valley.
Evans also was involved with various community groups. He served on the board of the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association and worked to preserve woodlands and fields along the Wissahickon Creek and restore the Trubauer Mill. After serving for nine years as a board member of Foulkeways at Gwynedd, the first continuing-care retirement community started by Quakers, Evans helped to found Friends Life Care, a nonprofit that helps the elderly age in place at home.
He is survived by 5 children and their spouses, 19 grandchildren, and 16 great-grandchildren.