The first floor Tucker Hall office of Adeline Lemelle Evans is a testament to her more than three decades of service at Florida A&M University. It is an eclectic blend of old football schedules, calendars, Post-it notes and exploding filing cabinets.
Her desk is overflowing with textbooks, manila folders, cups, vases and a precariously perched telephone.
Evans’ office tells the story of her life as a professor, speech coordinator, administrator, mentor and mother to more than 10,000 FAMU students.
The classrooms of FAMU have housed Evans for a long time but will bid her farewell in December when she retires. On many occasions, students can find the diminutive figure of Evans peeking through the valleys and canyons created by the mountains of files piled on her desk.
“This retirement thing is getting to me,” she said, her voice tinged with melancholy.
This semester Evans will teach her final three speech classes, including an honors class.
Evans teaches her students the elements of speech and communication by using the history of FAMU and regaling them with anecdotes of her life.
When leaving her classroom or office Evans is always accompanied by two of her students. She gives extra credit for helping her with teaching supplies and papers.
“It encourages them to help somebody,” Evans said.
Reflecting on how her teaching style has changed over the years, Evans said: “I had more energy then. I’ve become more lenient.” She said her biggest hurdle as a teacher has been helping students overcome their fears and apprehension about doing well in the class.
“Mrs. Evans is the nicest professor,” said Racquel Gilmore, a freshman from Fort Myers. “She takes time not only to teach us but to nurtures us. It doesn’t get any better.”
Evans has become an institution at FAMU, offering her services both in the classroom and in administration.
For the past decade and a half, Evans has served as president, vice president, secretary and chair of several major committees in FAMU’s Faculty Senate. She has also been very active in the university’s honors program by serving as the teacher of the honors public speaking course, co-editor and co-developer of the Undergraduate Honors Journal and campus adviser to Alpha Kappa Mu Honor Society. Ivy Mitchell, director of FAMU’s honors program, described Evans as a dedicated teacher, who is “committed not just to her students doing well, but she makes sure they learn.”
Evans was raised in a large family in Louisiana and graduated from Charles Drew High School in Eunice, La. She is the product of working class parent; her mother was a chef in a cafeteria and her father a rice mill worker.
“It was difficult with nine children, [but] they worked hard to make sure we had an education.”
She attended Grambling State University on a T.H Harris Scholarship where she maintained an ‘A’ average all four years. Evans was crowned Miss Grambling, Campus Queen in 1958. She completed her Master of Arts in speech communication and pathology at Louisiana State University in 1962 and her doctorate in the same field from Florida State University in 1974.
Before she began teaching at FAMU, Evans taught at her alma mater and completed a certification in speech pathology at Louisiana Tech University.
“I met my husband while teaching at Grambling,” she said. “Within a year, we were married,” Evans said. “It was a glorious time.”
Her husband, Virden recalled the first time he met Evans during school. “She was in the dining room, and I thought she was very good looking, very unique and smart.”
Now, after years of service to FAMU, planning for Evans’ retirement party has already begun.
“We have a six-member committee to plan her send-off,” said Veronica Yon, head of the English department. “She is a phenomenal woman and deserves our appreciation on so many levels.”
Although Evans is apprehensive about life after FAMU, she does have a few more goals to complete.
“I would like to visit the children more, have some poems published and just live and enjoy the time with my husband.”