As Barron “Barry” Evans ’77 reflects on his personal and professional life, he is thankful for one thing above all else — the freedom he had to explore life’s possibilities matched with confident decision-making skills. When faced with opportunities over the years — both personal and professional — Evans often reflected on his Olivet College background and his dedication to Individual and Social Responsibility.
During his time on campus, Evans majored in English and political science, but he greatly enjoyed exploring the liberal arts. His avocational activities were varied, including being part of the first Alpha Lambda Epsilon pledge class that included men – ultimately, becoming its first male president. After graduating from Olivet, Evans earned a master’s degree in public administration and organizational development before launching a diverse career. He served in multiple capacities across telecommunications, a start-up consultancy, global advertising, retail marketing and the pharmaceutical industry. He worked for companies like AT&T, Change Management Systems, three Omnicom Group agencies, Hallmark, Merck and Eli Lilly. Not only was his career robust in variety, but it also took Evans around the world.
“My time at Olivet was a combination of good fortune, good timing and good opportunities. One of the most memorable experiences led me outside of Michigan for a summer internship at Population Action International in Washington, D.C.,” Evans said. “My career journey continued along the same mobile theme. I enjoyed residences from Philadelphia and D.C. on the East Coast to San Francisco on the West Coast, to Dallas in the south, the mountains in Boulder and several stops in the Midwest along the way.”
In addition to his time in the United States, Evans also had professional engagements in countries around the world and spent time working and living in Finland and Belgium. His time in Europe afforded him visits to all of the countries in the European Union, as well as to North Africa, Scandinavia and Russia.
Regardless of where Evans landed physically for his profession, he has spent 35 years serving various nonprofit organizations. Among those closest to his heart are the Ronald McDonald House (across five states), ACP Adviser Veteran Career Coaching (in three states), a human relations board for a California county, multiple arts organizations, Oxfam in Belgium and, after returning closer to home, the Olivet College Alumni Association Board.
“To me, Individual and Social Responsibility is about both feeling and focus,” Evans said. “By ‘feeling,’ I mean that innate sense, unique to you, when something inspires meaningful affiliation, sustainable purpose and joyful pride. ‘Focus’ implies those unique personal choices that enable lean-in behaviors and concentrated effort that, when brought to bear, achieve mutually beneficial outcomes. And, the best of those outcomes is realized when the link between individual and social is empathy.”
As Evans reflects on these varied professional and personal endeavors over the years, he cites the golden thread that ties them all together — the freedom to think about possibilities — instilled in him by his liberal arts education. “I look at my life experiences this way, it’s as if the aperture of my life’s camera first opened at Olivet and then continued to expand as life has evolved,” Evans said. “The experiences are informed and structured by different filters brought to bear on the circumstance: wisdom, knowledge, opportunity and viability.”
Now, Evans aspires to be a positive influence on students and other alumni. He hopes other Comets have the confidence to explore the world, pursue a successful career and give back along the way.
“I encourage everyone, especially students and young alumni, to continue challenging themselves by asking ‘what if ’ questions,” Evans said. “We are educated to do that at Olivet College. Don’t confine yourself to believing that a degree focus, geographic location and/or physical or mental ability prescribes your future. Whatever path you follow, remember that choices are simply current decisions to act, but they’re not immutable. If the feeling and/or the focus doesn’t resonate with you, leverage your Olivet guidepost around Individual and Social Responsibility as a yardstick for desired actions in the future. As Polonius so rightly said in Hamlet, ‘To thine own self be true.’ And, as I’ve hoped to do along my journey, live a principled life.”