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Former OSU regent Dr. Claud Evans (left) speaks to Dr. Thomas Coon, an OSU vice president and dean of the Ferguson College of Agriculture.

Former OSU regent Claud Evans speaks on OSU's land-grant mission

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Media Contact: Mack Burke | Editorial Coordinator | 405-744-5540 | editor@okstate.edu

Former Oklahoma State University regent Dr. Claud D. Evans received a rare honor last fall.

The Okemah, Oklahoma, veterinarian was asked to give the Justin Morrill Memorial Lecture to the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU).

Each year, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture joins with APLU to sponsor the acclaimed lecture series. The Morrill Act — the legislation that created the land-grant university system — is named for the former congressman and senator from Vermont.

Sharing insights about the many benefits land-grant institutions provide was nothing new to Evans. APLU members were an audience also well-versed in that regard. Evans and his wife, Elayne, realized the best insights he could share were to draw from his personal life — a journey through the years in which he, Elayne, and their family were touched time and again by the land-grant system.

Dr. Claud Evans accepted the Justin Smith Morrill Memorial Lecture Award last fall.
Dr. Claud Evans accepted the Justin Smith Morrill Memorial Lecture Award last fall.

“I’m very much a product of land-grant institutions, not just in terms of educational opportunities, but also in values and giving back to one’s community,” Evans said. “I was born in 1943, the final child in a family of 15 children. Growing up, I had the good fortune to get a job working for the local veterinarian, Dr. John Montgomery, who became something of a father-figure for me after my own dad died when I was 13 years old.”

Montgomery was the grandson of an enslaved person and a product of two land-grant institutions, which helped shape his own worldview. He went on to improve the lives of many in the state as a civil rights pioneer.

“He believed when you have an opportunity to make change for the better, do it,” Evans said. “We talked a lot. I was very blessed to have him as a mentor and role model. Even before I graduated from Poteau High School, I knew I wanted to be a veterinarian.”

A Cowboy alumnus, the Poteau, Oklahoma, native earned his Bachelor of Science degree in agricultural biochemistry from OSU in 1966. He then went on to earn his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Tuskegee Institute in 1970, interning at the University of California-Davis. All three are land-grant institutions.

Evans put his veterinary skills to use working with the Ralston Purina Company in St. Louis for 11 years. He and Elayne eventually decided to return to their home state to become more directly involved with their registered Angus cattle operation, along with the family farm operated by her parents, J.P. and Vivian Owens, in Okfuskee County. In 1982, Evans opened the Okfuskee County Veterinary Clinic in Okemah, serving owners of large and small animals, which is still going strong today.

“Dr. Montgomery, who served for 25 years on the Board of Regents for Oklahoma A&M Colleges, told me I needed to become known by significant leaders in Oklahoma,” Evans said. “He was instrumental in talking to the governor who appointed me to the state’s Board of Examiners of Veterinary Medicine. Then I was appointed to the University of Tulsa Board of Trustees by another governor.”

Dr. Evans was on the Board of Trustees for the University Center at Tulsa, which is the area in Greenwood District where OSU-Tulsa and Langston-Tulsa are located. The center has been disbanded and the land given to the OSU/A&M Regents.

For 16 years, Evans served on the OSU/A&M Board of Regents, including two terms as the board’s chairman.

His life’s path of service and leadership continued to unfold. Evans was appointed to two eight-year terms on the Board of Regents for Oklahoma A&M Colleges, twice serving as chairman. He served as a longtime member of the Dean’s Advisory Committee for OSU Agriculture. Then he was named to the National Council for Agricultural Research, Education and Teaching (CARET), eventually becoming the first African American to be named chair in 2012.

Evans is also a member of the OSU Hall of Fame.

“Dr. Evans has been a tremendous mentor, coach and advisor for me, both professionally and personally, for many years,” said Oklahoma Farm Bureau President Rodd Moesel, an Oklahoma City entrepreneur and CARET representative. “You won’t find a better man or more accomplished and enthusiastic advocate for the land-grant mission and rural Oklahoma in general.”

Dr. Thomas Coon, OSU Agriculture vice president and dean, agreed. He said Evans has had a positive effect on his own life.

“Dr. Evans has motivated me to push through challenges,” said Coon. “Most of all, he has acompassionate heart, a reflection of the sense of respect and mission that is a hallmark of OSU Agriculture.

“As I look to the future, I’m strengthened by reflecting on the lives of Dr. Evans and Elayne. I aspire to pursue opportunities with the same sense of purpose by which they live.”


Photos: Todd Johnson

Story By: Donald Stotts | STATE Magazine

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