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Deborah Evind celebrated at Sylvania with tree planting

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No matter the weather – and it was raining buckets on May 1 – a group of administrators, faculty and staff from Sylvania Campus joined friends and family members of Deborah Evind, the former coordinator of the campus Women’s Resource Center, to plant a tree in her memory a year after her death from breast cancer.

Sylvania Campus President Linda Gerber spoke at the tree-planting ceremony to celebrate the life of Deborah Evind.

The group huddled under a tent in the Sylvania Memorial Garden as President Linda Gerber praised Evind’s leadership and passion for social justice, and expressed how much the campus missed her.

“Deborah demanded from those in power respect for herself and for others, and she worked hard to make institutional changes that would empower the poor, the marginalized, the disenfranchised,” said Gerber, as part of the ceremony.

“She lived a life dedicated to courage, kindness, justice, intellect and love. Deborah was a powerful force who we miss daily and who we will remember always,” Gerber said.

Japanese Stewartia — a multi-stemmed, deciduous tree – was a favorite of Evind’s, so one was chosen to plant in her honor. The tree features stunning bark, and its foliage emerges bronzy purple in spring, develops into a dark green by summer, and turns red or orange in the fall. In midsummer, white camellia-like flowers open in random succession.

During the ceremony, Jeannie LaFrance, coordinator of the Illumination Project, passed out parchment paper to attendees and asked them to write down a word that reminded them of Evind.

“In August, Deborah’s birthday month, we’ll tie them to the tree,” said LaFrance.

Evind worked tirelessly, up to her death, to establish the Deborah Evind Women’s Leadership Award, an endowed scholarship awarded annually to meet the costs of tuition, fees, books and educational supplies. The award was designed to support a female student who has participated in a Sylvania Women’s Resource Center program or benefited from a center service and demonstrates leadership through paid or volunteer work that positively affects women.

The sun shone a few days later, when the Japanese Stewartia -- to commemorate Deborah Evind's contributions to the campus -- was planted on the right side of Sylvania's Memorial Garden.

Traci Boyle-Galestiantz, the center’s new coordinator, announced that the fund has a balance of approximately $50,000 which has enabled the center to award a $2,000 scholarship to a woman student leader at Sylvania – twice the amount awarded last year. She also shared that last year’s winner – Megan Snelling, who worked with the Illumination Project and the Vagina Monologues – was just accepted into the nursing program at Oregon Health & Science University.

“Megan is well on her way to achieving her dream of becoming a certified nurse midwife,” said Boyle-Galestiantz. “Deborah’s scholarship was pivotal in providing the financial security to continue on her path.”

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