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Massey award winner is a jack of all trades

John Parkhill “Jack” Evans is an Indiana boy with basketball in his blood.

He played for his small high school in Warsaw at a time when anyone more than six feet tall was considered tall enough to play center or forward.

Evans ended up playing both, as called upon.

Before his ankles gave out, he played pickup games in Woollen Gym and even played in the games organized and refereed by Department of History Professor E.W. Brooks — under the original rules.

He came of age in the 1950s and both followed and idolized the Boston Celtics and men like Bill Russell and Bob Cousy, and later John Havlicek.

There were bigger stars with better stats, of course. It was Wilt Chamberlain, not Russell, who scored 100 points in a single game. It was Jerry West, not Cousy, who won the title of “Mr. Clutch.”

Evans, now the Phillip Hettleman professor of business administration, believes that what made Russell and Havlicek great was that they played in a way that made their teammates better. And that is why all those championship banners hung from the rafters of Boston Garden.

“I believe that if you want to go and find good role models for effective CEOs, you could do very well by looking at coaches, particularly college coaches like Joe Paterno and John Wooden and Dean Smith, who managed to sustain the athletic success and personal development of their players over long periods of time.”

Evans never considered himself a great athlete. But the people at the University who have worked with Evans over the years have come to see him as the consummate team player.

Over the past three decades, Evans has won a spot as the South Building’s sixth man, called not off the bench but out of the business school time and time again to do whatever has needed to be done.

The citation for the C. Knox Massey Distinguished Service Award, which Evans won in May, posed the question: “Why so many tough assignments and emergency assignments for so personally modest and humorously self-deprecating a man?”

The citation supplied the answer: “Because he has always been creatively useful and never treated any of these posts as mere time-serving, and because of his skill in leading other talented persons to forswear in-fighting and concentrate upon fruitful and useful accomplishments. He has an unmatched, unselfish capacity to serve and no selfish capacity at all for refusing to bear another burden in service to this institution.”

The citation further pointed out that it would take two single pages to merely list all the responsibilities, committee assignments and leadership roles that Evans has undertaken since he arrived on campus 32 years ago.

Evans thinks the citation exaggerates his qualities a good bit. Rather, he thinks that each assignment in some ways has led to the next one. His career, as a result, has resembled more a chain reaction than a course he deliberately charted. As he put it, “I kept getting asked to do other things,” he said.

And he never learned to say no.

Originally published by University Gazette: Nov. 20,2002

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