Dr. David Rees Evans, newly appointed Interim President of AUBG, was very kind to take the time and answer our questions for his first AAA interview. Read it in its entirety below.
Dr. Evans, tell us more about yourself
I was born in Los Angeles and lived there until I graduated from college, and then returned regularly until my parents moved to Minneapolis in 1992. I have been married to Ursula McCarty, who is a textile artist and professional costumer for a small theatre in Bennington, Vermont, for almost 25 years (our anniversary is this summer!). I am an only child, but my wife is the 6th of 10 children, so we had very different experiences growing up. We collect various kinds of traditional art, including textiles and ceramics, and contemporary Hispanic devotional art from New Mexico.
We don’t have children, but we have 16 nieces and nephews ranging from 37 to 3 years old. We have five dogs, all rescued from shelters in various parts of the U.S., and three cats. I confess that I especially miss our dogs, but I love how many people here in town have dogs and are out walking them all the time, which makes me feel better!
How do you find Blagoevgrad and the campus?
The campus is very nice—the buildings are excellent and the open spaces on campus are comfortable and friendly. It makes me happy to see people from town enjoying the terrace outside the student center, and walking along the river is peaceful and relaxing.
I am still exploring Blagoevgrad, but it is a nice small city with many amenities. The natural setting is beautiful. I am very pleased to be within walking distance of both the campus and the Main Building, and to have easy access to groceries, a number of good restaurants, and wonderful parks and gathering areas. Over the past week I have been particularly taken by the lively street life in the center of town, with people out walking, socializing, shopping, and having ice cream and meals. There is a lot of energy here, but also a sense of ease and comfort that I look forward to enjoying all year. As I said above, I also love the fact that so many people have friendly dogs!
What will be your priorities for the coming year; what are the challenges for an interim president?
The first thing I want to do is make sure I understand the recent history at AUBG thoroughly and get a good sense of the university’s needs so that I can work with everyone here and on the board to identify the best priorities for the year. There are some organizational matters that need attention, primarily continuing to lay a good foundation for a proper fundraising program. In its history so far, AUBG has relied too much on too small a number of financial supporters, and as such is vulnerable to changes in those supporters’ priorities and interests. To continue its exceptional work, AUBG needs a more diversified funding base, both in terms of students and relative to donors, endowments, and other kinds of funds. Continuing the great momentum in enrollment is absolutely critical, but so is beginning to identify additional possibilities for endowments, significant annual support, and potential partnerships with foundations and other organizations.
Insofar as the challenges specific to being an interim president, of course the first is that there is limited time to establish and pursue strategic priorities. It is critical for AUBG to maintain the areas where it has positive momentum, and work to build such momentum in other areas, and I hope I can be instrumental in both of these areas. For example, successful fundraising on a large scale involves building substantial, positive relationships with potential donors, who need to trust that their support is going to a good cause and will be used as they want it to be. In some cases this can be achieved in a year, but in others it is the work of much more time. I will do my best to continue existing positive relationships, reestablish those that have been damaged for whatever reason, and develop new ones that help ensure a great future for AUBG. Certainly, the university’s alumni are highly successful, and engaging them positively will be a major part of my work this year.
What gives you satisfaction in your job?
I am always very proud to watch students identify their strengths, get excited by learning, and become successful in their chosen fields. I love interacting with students and learning from them about their dreams and plans. Supporting faculty and staff to enable them to do their best work is also a real pleasure. Like most people involved in education, I came to the field because I believe nothing is more important to the future than well-educated, critically aware, dedicated citizens, and being a part of developing those citizens makes me proud. AUBG in particular serves such a critical role in the region as both an educational institution and as an example of what a liberal arts education can do that I am delighted and honored to have a chance to be a part of its vital mission.
What hobbies or activities bring you joy in your free time?
I am a golfer and have at times been pretty good, though for the last 8 or 10 years I haven’t played enough to maintain my game. I am an avid reader and listener to audiobooks, and try to pay careful attention to the news, both in the United States and worldwide. I have traveled a great deal in Turkey and have spent significant time professionally in South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and England. I love to travel and visit new places, and especially enjoy walking around new cities. I have also recently returned to my old hobby of building radio-controlled model airplanes, something I spent a lot of time on when I was a teenager but haven’t done for about 30 years.
What would you like to tell the wider AUBG alumni community?
I am honored to be here, and sincerely look forward to learning from you about your experiences at AUBG and working with you to support current students and build an even better future for this great and important institution.
Thank you very much for taking the time to do this! May you do well on your new job, you have our full support!