Renowned SU music teacher to be honored

Posted: January 4, 2013

The Winchester Star

Longtime Shenandoah University professor Eugenia Evans will be honored at the school Saturday.

WINCHESTER — A celebration of life will take place Saturday for former Shenandoah Conservatory faculty member and pianist Eugenia Weisman Evans.

Evans died Dec. 25, in Gastonia, N.C., at the age of 103. She worked at SU from 1963 until 2000.

“She was the most gracious of ladies,” said Steven Cooksey, professor of organ and church music at SU for 40 years. “She was an exciting person and an exciting musician all wrapped into one.

“She was greatly loved by all her students. They held her up on a pedestal and rightly so.”

Saturday’s celebration is set for 2 p.m. in Goodson Chapel with a reception to follow. A private service will be held for the family at Mount Hebron Cemetery.

Evans was born in Odessa, Ukraine. She was preceded in death by her husband, Rudolph Claude Evans, and son, Thomas Hugh Evans.

Evans began teaching piano at age 15, and the next year was the youngest student admitted to the Prague Conservatory of Music, where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees and became a concert pianist and teacher.

She and her mother came to America in 1940 on the last refugee ship to leave Europe and settled in Chicago — where she taught and accompanied at the Chicago School of Music and performed as a concert pianist.

After she and her husband moved to Winchester, Evans joined the faculty of Shenandoah University. During her tenure there, she became an associate professor and was awarded the honor of professor emerita. The Eugenia Evans Scholarship Fund was established in 1987 to support the education of future generations of pianists.

“When she closed the study door, she was a Russian general,” Cooksey said. “She was all business.”

Karen Walker, associate dean for graduate studies at the conservatory and a member of the piano faculty at SU, said Evans had the benefit of European training.

Walker called Evans a “force” and the “most formidable” teacher on staff while she was at SU.

“She knew how to turn a stone into a diamond, and she did it time and time and time again,” Walker said. “She produced some remarkable results.”

Sue Marston Boyd, SU professor emeritus of piano, was colleagues with “Genie” and considered her a gracious mentor who everyone looked up to.

“Her students just adored her even though they knew they had to work,” she said. “She was caring and devoted, a very special person.”

Evans moved to Gastonia in 2001 and taught there until she was 102.

According to Boyd, she loved Big Macs until the day she died.

— Contact Rebecca Layne at rlayne@winchesterstar.com