The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

Dean of students will retire after 24 years at W&L

Sidney Evans says goodbye to the students who she’s helped, and who have helped her
Dean of Students Sidney Evans is retiring after 24 years at Washington and Lee University. 
Photo courtesy of the W&L website
Dean of Students Sidney Evans is retiring after 24 years at Washington and Lee University. Photo courtesy of the W&L website

Sidney Evans, the vice president for student affairs and dean of students, is retiring after 24 years at Washington and Lee University.

Alex Miller, the Vice President of Student Life at Denison University, is replacing Evans starting July 1.

Evans’ favorite part of her job is the students, she said.

“I love our students in particular because they are so bright; they keep me on my toes,” Evans said. “I think about the world through their eyes now, too.”

Evans started at the university in 2000 as the director of law school admissions. Two years later, she became the associate dean for law student services. In June 2011, Evans took her current position in student affairs and has been serving in this role for 13 years.

“It’s been fantastic,” Evans said. “I would’ve never dreamed I’d still be here in 2024, or that I’d be in this role.”

Evans is grateful that she gets to create strong relationships with students since that isn’t a possibility at other schools, she said.

She especially enjoys meeting with the executive committee president each week and maintaining that relationship past graduation, she said.

“I still text with them,” Evans said. “I’ve heard from two former EC presidents in the past two weeks.”

Evans’ daily tasks include advising staff and student leaders, as well as supporting students through difficult circumstances, she said.

Not only does she get to care for students, but students care for her, she said.

Evans got emotional remembering one touching example following the death of Kelsey Durkin in 2013.

Durkin, ’14, was leaving a party in the country when the driver, who was intoxicated, lost control of the car and crashed.

After Durkin’s candlelight vigil, Evans walked over to the university president at the time, Kenneth Ruscio, and received a text from a student who had graduated the past May, she said.

“He said, ‘I am thinking about you and President Ruscio during this time,’” Evans said. “I don’t think that happens in other places.”

Throughout her time, Evans has seen the composition of the student body transform. She says the university is more diverse across the board, including socioeconomics, backgrounds, experience and race.

The percentage of non-white students at the university has increased from 12 percent in 2003 to 28 percent in 2022, according
to the Washington and Lee University FactBook.

Evans has always been impressed by students but has seen them get stronger over the years, she said.

“It is so much more diverse in such a great way,” she said. “I always say we have full-time students trying to cure cancer on the side.”

Evans has also seen the university’s facilities transform. Her job included overseeing the development of long-term initiatives, such as the Village.

She said she is still working to create more living spaces for sophomores, juniors and seniors, as well as more social hangout spaces.

The university has also created the Office of Inclusion and Engagement and theme houses, such as Sankofa House, and renovated Elrod Commons, Graham-Lees and Gaines.

“Gaines was all suites and was very isolating,” Evans said. “Students called it Cell Block G.”

Evans isn’t the only administrator who has watched the university evolve.

Since Steve McAllister, the treasurer and vice president for finance and administration, started in 1993, the university has added five dining venues.

Since that time, the university has also added 41 dining staff members, 21 staff members in advancement, an outing club director, and health and counseling services have almost tripled, McAllister said.

While McAllister and Evans have been at the university for decades, other members of administration have only served for a couple years, such as President Will Dudley and Provost Lena Hill.

“In terms of people coming and going, people come and go everywhere,” Evans said. “People make changes a lot more quickly now. Some people, like me, stay around.”

Aside from Evans’ retirement, the composition of administration should look the same in the fall, Vice President for University Advancement Tom Jennings said.

However, McAllister said his retirement will be coming soon.

When asked how much longer McAllister sees himself in his role, he said two years, two months and 26 days.

“Students might be surprised, but anyone in administration would know that,” McAllister said. “They’ve heard that for over ten years.”

Evans is looking forward to spending time with her two golden retrievers, knitting, quilting, volunteering and digging into her stack of books that has piled up.

“It’s bittersweet. I’ve been here a long time, and I love being with students, but it’s time. I’m ready,” Evans said

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