David Evans, expert on earth’s geological history, is named head of Berkeley College

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David Evans will become the new head of Berkeley College on July 1. (Photo by Michael Marsland)

Yale scientist and alumnus David Evans has been named as the next head of Berkeley College, President Peter Salovey and Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway have announced.

His five-year term will begin on July 1.

Evans focuses his research on the past motions of continents across Earth’s surface. He is director of the Yale Paleomagnetism Laboratory, which traces this movement by measuring fossil magnetism preserved in ancient rocks from around the world. His undergraduate classes at Yale span from introductory geology to global tectonics, natural resources, and changes in Earth’s climate. “In these classes and for his research, he has taken students on numerous geological field trips across the New England Appalachians, as well as to more far-flung destinations including Australia, Barbados, Canada, Italy, Namibia, New Zealand, Norway, and South Africa,” Salovey and Holloway wrote in a letter to the Berkeley College community announcing Evans’ new post.

“His work has elucidated the configurations of vanished supercontinents named Pangea, Rodinia, and Nuna (each separated by about 600 million years); characterized the geometry of Earth’s ancient magnetic field; and provided evidence for globally engulfing ‘Snowball Earth’ ice ages that occurred deep in earth’s history, around the time when animals were first evolving,” Salovey and Holloway continue in their letter. “He has co-led two UNESCO-based international geological projects to examine ancient supercontinents and their relation to the broader Earth system.”

Evans grew up in the suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and graduated from Yale College — where he was a resident of Berkeley College — in 1992. Several of his family members also lived in Berkeley College: his father is a 1962 graduate of Yale College and his sister graduated in 1989. Evans earned his Ph.D. at the California Institute of Technology and conducted postdoctoral research at the University of Western Australia before joining the Yale faculty in 2002. His honors include a early-career research fellowship from the David & Lucille Packard Foundation and the Geological Society of America’s George P. Woollard Award “for outstanding contributions to geology through the application of the principles and techniques of geophysics.”

Also joining the Berkeley College community will be his wife, Lely Dai Evans, a violinist and teacher of Mandarin Chinese at the Foote School and the New Haven Chinese Language School; their 13-year-old daughter, Corinne, and 12-year-old son, Jamie; and the family’s dog, Brie (who is half cavalier spaniel and half bichon frise).

“I’m really excited to return to Berkeley College in my new role as head,” says Evans. “Thankfully, the legacy of outgoing [head] Marvin Chun is one of really positive spirit among current students, alumni, fellows, and staff. Some of the current traditions have been around since my days as a BK student, and others have appeared since. Doubtless, new ones will emerge during my tenure, and some will depart — but only if the community feels that the time is right to let them go. One recent tradition that absolutely must stay is Thunderbrunch!”

At an event introducing him to the Berkeley College community, Evans says he told students that his chief goal “is to help provide an environment where they can realize their dreams while at Yale.”

“A big part of making that happen will be to let the students take charge of those passions,” he says. “I plan to support activities as broad as Yale’s intellectual mission, but also to add my own personal flavor, perhaps with some trips off campus to experience nature in ways that might be novel to some or many students. My family is equally excited about moving on campus! We are all really impressed with our very warm welcome from the Berkeley community today [April 27], and we look forward to getting to know them as individuals in the coming years.”

The Evanses share a passion for music: David and Lely met as students in the joint orchestra of Caltech and Occidental College, and she received a Master of Music degree from The University of Western Australia in early violin performance practice. David is a bassist and a member of the Berkeley College Orchestra. Lely also loves cooking and brings many aspects of food preparation, as well as music, into her classes.

The family also shares a love of international travel, playing games, and attending the New Haven Chinese Language School. Corinne is an avid reader who enjoys creative writing, MathCounts, and progressive rock music. Jamie likes pencil drawing, playing piano, and “all sports except baseball and softball,” he says. He recently walked with his father across Connecticut to raise funds for the U.N. Refugee Agency. Both children practice capoeira.

Salovey and Holloway thanked the members of the search committee for the new Berkeley College head, which was chaired by Shyam Sunder, and expressed gratitude to Chun and his wife, Woo-Kyoung Ahn, for their service to the college and its students.

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