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Alumnus Dr. Eric L. Eversley: A Lifetime of Dedication to Education

Eric Eversley  
Dr. Eric L. Eversley

He has demonstrated a lifetime commitment to education. His career has taken him to diverse educational settings, from inner city to suburban schools, from schools with largely white student populations to schools with predominately black and Latino/Hispanic enrollments. He was also the administrative leader of New York State's largest educational service agency that provided programs and services to 53 socioeconomically and racially diverse school districts on Long Island. Before retiring in 2009, Eric L. Eversley served 41 years as a professional educator as a high school teacher (history and economics), football coach, middle school principal, high school principal, superintendent of schools, and district superintendent/CEO.

In addition to Long Island, Eversley worked in Minneapolis, suburban Chicago, and the Denver area where he now resides. His own education includes a bachelor of science degree in history (cum laude) from UMD (1968), a master’s degree in economics from the University of Colorado (1970), and a doctorate in educational administration from the Harvard Graduate School of Education (1976). "The strong foundation in high quality academic work I gained at UMD leveraged into successful graduate work and two advanced degrees," Eversley said. While at Harvard, Eversley was appointed to the Editorial Board of the Harvard Educational Review.

Harvard Alumni
Eversley's commitment to education didn't end with retirement. Eversley served on the Harvard Alumni Association (HAA) Board of Directors for more than a decade, including four years as vice president. He is a member of the Rocky Mountain Harvard University Club Board of Directors. "I am serving a three-year term on a major Harvard Alumni Association committee which takes me to Cambridge at least twice per year," he said. In addition, he is on the Visiting Committee to Harvard College, a group representing a broad array of professions and interests who review Harvard College programs, development plans, curriculum, operations, and campus life issues. They review and make recommendations to the President of Harvard University, the Dean of the College of Arts and Science, and the Dean of the College on these matters of university focus.

Early College Awareness
For years, Eversley has been a part of the Early College Awareness Program. Working with local Harvard Alumni Clubs, he has initiated partnerships and helped organize and secure resources for the program, which strives to inform young students and their parents about college, in geographic areas with traditionally low rates of college attendance. “The program has a focus on middle school students and their parents. It's important that students not start their journey to college too late,” he said. “Many parents don’t know how the admissions and financial aid processes work.” Because some may not have spent a lot of time on a college campus, the goal is to expose them to the college culture to make them more comfortable with it. Program events offer speakers, materials, meals, and, in some cases, transportation. They also give away gear such as sweatshirts and t-shirts with college logos. The program stresses the importance of family financial planning, students earning strong GPAs, and taking challenging, advanced-level courses in high school. "It's all about access and readiness," he stated. 

Eric Eversley at UMD  
Eric L. Eversley ('68) as a student at UMD.  

High School
“Every child should feel that they can go to college,” Eversley said. He speaks from his own experience. Born in Minneapolis, Eversley lived in Harlem until his mother, sister, and he moved back to Minneapolis when he was nine years old. Eversley worked hard at Minneapolis’s Central High School, earning an Honors Diploma, and ranking in the top ten students in his class. Nevertheless, he didn't receive any information on planning for college.

"I never experienced college counseling in my high school,” he said. His mother, divorced and raising two children, was an assembly line worker and line leader at Honeywell. “My mother graduated from high school but wasn't able to attend college herself. She talked to me about college long before I got to high school. I knew I would go, but I thought I would have to get a job and take night classes.” It was his high school sports career that opened up the opportunity to attend college full-time.

Central High School was undefeated in football, regional runner-up in basketball, and won the Minnesota track championship during Eversley’s senior year. Because of his stellar high school career in all three sports, over a dozen schools recruited Eversley, offering him financial support for college: the University of Minnesota, University of North Dakota, North Central College in Illinois, U.S. Naval Academy, Augsburg, Gustavus Adolphus, Luther College, and Wayne State to name a few. UMD Head Football Coach Jim Malosky, as well as coaches from other schools, gave him advice about taking the entrance exams and filling out the application forms. 

Only a handful of African Americans were among the 5,000 students at UMD when Eversley arrived. “I hadn’t really researched UMD's racial demographics,” he said. He was initially deeply involved with football and his team members. Because of their practice and game schedule, he missed freshmen orientation. “The good part was that I knew the guys on the team exceedingly well. My social base was within the football program. We knew each other well and worked together toward a common purpose.” Coach Malosky seemed to be ahead of the problems. He cared for the welfare of his players and was sensitive to their unique needs. “I had been at UMD over a month and I needed a haircut, but didn’t know where to find the right barber,” said Eversley. Coach Malosky noticed and offered him a ride. Malosky tracked his players academic progress as well.

Another person of influence in Eversley's life at the time was Harry Oden. "As a graduate student on campus, former UMD athlete of distinction and one of the few black students on campus, he took me under his wing a bit," Eversley said. Oden played a major role in Eversley's adjustment to UMD and the Duluth environment. Eversley has some advice for UMD. "As UMD intensifies its work to increase diversity on campus, having support and involvement for students from people who have some of the same cultural group experiences is essential," Eversley said. "Harry contributed a great deal to my success at UMD."

Eversley took advantage of the wide range of campus activities available to him. He was involved with student government; he received student services awards; and he was the chair of the music committee for prom. Eversley was a resident advisor and senior resident advisor in Torrence Hall. He had a sports radio show on KUMD and was the Saturday night sportscaster for WDSM-TV his senior year. He was also involved with the Panel of Americans --- a group of students who went out into the community to engage in a dialogue about diversity.

Eversley was honored in 2005 when he was inducted into UMD Hall of Fame for his football and track career. He continues his dedication to higher education at UMD. He joined the UMD Alumni Board of Directors in 2010 and in his role as board member, he assists with events and outreach.

Written by Cheryl Reitan, June 2012

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UMD home page editor, Cheryl Reitan,

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