Evans Complex rooted in history

Across the lawn from the Bobby K. Marks Administration Building sits a half-century old orange and tan building, known for its strange floor layout known as the Evans Complex.

The Evans Complex was built in 1959 in dedication to George P. Evans who was a professor for 31 years at Sam Houston State University back when it was Sam Houston State Teachers College. Twelve of those years which he served as head of the English department.

The building was completed in the late 1950s and housed a faculty of 26 professors, five supplementary instructors and seven graduate instructors along with the 3,609 students who were enrolled in English courses at that time.

In 1986, the Board of Regents approved plans for renovation of the Evans and Music I buildings, which would include the addition and construction of a new unit designed to join both buildings into a single educational complex—serving as an explanation of the odd, split level structure. The total cost of renovation and construction was approximately $2.5 million.

In 1989, the English and Foreign Languages programs moved into the Evans Complex. Some of the new features included the state of the art language laboratory, a multi-purpose lecture hall, computer lab, offices and conference rooms for faculty and staff.

Today there is a courtyard in the middle of the building. In that courtyard stands a tall Juniper Cedar tree. This tree, in its former days, was the original Tree of Light.

The tradition of the Tree of Light began in the early 1920s and when lit, this tree could be seen all the way from Avenue O and 19th street. Although the exact age of the tree is debatable amongst the English professors, the tree has been around since before the construction of the Evans building.

When talk of the blueprints for the original Evans complex began in 1959, they wanted to remove the giant tree.

“The story goes that English faculty members threatened to chain themselves to the tree to prevent its being felled, so plans were redesigned, leaving the tree standing,” English Department Chair Bill Bridges said.

There are other stories of faculty members threatening to quit. Whichever reigns true, the end result was the same. The architects modified their sketches of the restored building to accommodate the tree.

“Nobody knew whether the tree would survive being surrounded on three sides by construction, but it did,” Bridges said.

The tree which has lost some of its former glory, still stands having survived throughout the years and two construction jobs.
Harry F. Estill, who was a former president of SHSU, noted during the 1938 Tree of Light ceremony that the tree was special because it was an evergreen.

“Most other trees lose their leaves come winter,” Estill said. “But this tree, defying the storms of winter, steadfastly and bravely maintained its beauty throughout the year-a lesson of unwavering courage in the face of discouragement.”


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