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For immediate use

March 17, 2004 -- No. 141

Photo note:  To download a photo, see end of story.

Revson Foundation honors alumnus Eli Evans
with gift to Carolina Center for Jewish Studies

By DEL HELTON
UNC Arts and Sciences Foundation

CHAPEL HILL — The Charles H. Revson Foundation of New York has honored its president emeritus, Eli N. Evans, with a $250,000 gift to the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The gift will establish a program in Evans’ name that supports outreach activities on campus and in communities across North Carolina. Among the program’s features will be an annual scholar-in-residence to present a public lecture and meet with students, faculty and the community; other visiting speakers; and lectures by UNC-Chapel Hill faculty to public groups in N.C. urban and rural communities, ranging in subject from the origins of the Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Holocaust and the history of Jews in the American South.

We are extraordinarily proud of the many contributions Eli has made to the betterment of our common life, and we are delighted that the Revson Foundation has chosen to honor his many years of service in this fashion, said UNC Chancellor James Moeser. As an undergraduate, he served as president of the student body, and he has been a loyal son of Carolina, following in his fathers distinguished footsteps.

Evans father was E.J. Evans a 1928 UNC graduate, who was Durham’s mayor from 1951 to 1963 and president of Carolinas General Alumni Association in 1972-73. He received the university’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1972.

Eli Evans, who graduated from Carolina in 1958 and Yale Law School in 1963, chairs the advisory board for the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies, established in the College of Arts and Sciences in 2003. A Durham native, Evans was a speechwriter on the staff of President Lyndon B. Johnson and directed former N.C. Gov. Terry Sanford’s "Study of American States." The nationwide study, funded by the Ford and Carnegie foundations, focused on the future of state government.

Evans joined the Carnegie Corp., a national education foundation, in 1968. In 1978, he became the first president of the Revson Foundation. He oversaw grants totaling more than $147 million to Jewish causes, urban affairs, education and biomedical research. He retired in 2003 after 25 years at the foundation.

Evans’ books include "The Provincials: A Personal History of Jews in the South," widely considered a classic after 30 years in print; "Judah P. Benjamin: The Jewish Confederate," a biography of the Confederacy’s Secretary of State; and "The Lonely Days Were Sundays: Reflections of a Jewish Southerner," a collection of essays.

Evans lives in New York City with his wife Judith; his son Josh is a freshman at UNC.

"Often called the poet laureate of Southern Jews, Eli has had an enormous influence on all of us who engage in Jewish studies," said Dr. Jonathan M. Hess, director of the UNC center and a Germanic languages professor. "Eli has been involved with the center since its inception, sharing his time, his vision and his deep love for Carolina. It is a great honor for us that the Revson Foundation has made this gift to recognize him."

The center engages in teaching and research to explore Jewish history, culture and religion in the United States and abroad. Last fall the center launched a public lecture series that has drawn hundreds to campus to hear speakers including Stuart Eizenstat, former Deputy Secretary of the Treasury and Undersecretary of State in the Clinton administration, and author Emily Bingham.

Carolina gave the study of Judaism a prominent role in its curriculum in 1947 when creating its department of religious studies, one of the first at an American public university. Today, the university offers nearly 30 courses in Jewish studies across five departments:: English, Germanic languages, history, religious studies and Slavic languages and literatures. More than 700 students enroll in these courses each year. The university began offering an undergraduate minor in Jewish studies in fall 2003.

"It is inspiring to witness Jewish studies for all faiths coming alive at UNC," said Evans. "The center is a consequential idea, and this is the right time and place in history to launch it. What our flagship university does will radiate across the South and the nation."

The gift counts toward the Carolina First campaign goal of $1.8 billion. Carolina First is a multi-year, private fund-raising campaign to support Carolina's vision of becoming the nation's leading public university. Jewish studies’ campaign goal is $24 million. UNC aspires to become the leading campus in this field in the South.

For more information about the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies, see www.unc.edu/ccjs/.

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Photo URL:  http://www.unc.edu/news/pics/event/award/evans_eli  *Photo © Ann Marie Rousseau

Contact: Dr. Jonathan Hess, (919) 843-9160

News Services contact: L.J. Toler, (919) 962-8589