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Opinion

Alumni Spotlight: History of UWRF alumna scholarship

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April 15, 2021

“Mothers and daughters are connected. In ways we don’t even know.” Tricia Burger told me this about her mom, Helen Alexander Kuyper Evans. A UW-River Falls Journalism and English alumna from the class of 1969, Evans is remembered by her family and friends as someone who could light up the entire room as soon as she walked in. Evans had a whirlwind of a college experience and left a mark on River Falls that is still remembered today. 

UWRF provides a system for current and incoming students to apply for a variety of scholarships that assist in funding education. After these scholarships are awarded recipients are encouraged to write thank you letters to contributors of these funds. 

For fall semester, I was honored to be awarded the Helen Kuyper Evans scholarship for the Student Voice. I wrote a thank you note to the contributors and sent it off through the university system. A few weeks later I heard back from one of Evan’s college friends, Susan Delaney. 

Delaney was eager to tell me a little bit about her dear friend Kuyper Evans, she said, “She was one of my closest friends. She embodied energy. We were all young and active, but Kuyper Evans could keep on working, or playing, or dancing, long after everyone else had to stop.”

I gave Delaney a call to hear more about her friendship with Kuyper Evans. Although she did not have any classes with her, Delaney knew that Kuyper Evans’ energy was similar to sipping out of a fire hose and could keep moving even after the sun went down. The instant impression I got from talking with Delaney was that Kuyper Evans impacted everyone around her and brought positive energy wherever she went. 

Delaney got me into contact with Tricia Burger, Kuyper Evans’s daughter, who she happened to give birth to during her time at UWRF. Kuyper Evans met Gary Alexander, Burger’s father, during her first couple of years at the university. While maintaining the role as Editor for the Student Voice, Kuyper Evans newspaper in 1966, Tricia Alexander was born on Oct. 6 of that year. Both Kuyper Evans and Gary were 20 years old when they had Burger  and divorced when she was three. Both Delaney and Burger  had faint but fond memories of friends that had babysat each other’s children while mothers, such as Kuyper Evans, went to class. 

Kuyper Evans went on to remarry to a man named John Evans, who she also met at UWRF. Although Evans passed away about five years ago, Burger  knew Evans well and he played a significant role in her life, and he was married to Kuyper Evans at the time of her passing.

Kuyper Evans was on a skiing trip in Breckenridge Colorado with Burger  and her friends Bob and Nan, two days after Christmas on Dec. 27 in 1974. Burger  mentioned that her mother was an avid skier and taught Burger  to ski the same way she taught her to walk. Burger spoke of Kuyper Evans and Evans, “They were often up at the crack of dawn to ensure they were the first ones on the slopes, they were just those types of people.” The day they went skiing, Kuyper Evans needed to take a small trip to Boulder to fix some skiing equipment. While Burger stayed back with their friend Nan, Bob went with Kuyper Evans. Burger remembers this day clearly as they got the message while at the ski resort saying there had been an accident. Kuyper Evans and Bob had unfortunately been side-swiped by a semi-truck and fallen off of a cliff into an icy pond. Although Bob made it out with a badly broken arm, Kuyper Evans was not wearing her seatbelt and sadly passed away on impact. To this day, Burger  says, “If I ever catch my kids not wearing their seatbelt, they know there is absolutely no excuse.” 

Kuyper Evans maintains a wonderful legacy that is kept alive through a variety of stories and things such as the UWRF scholarship in her name. The scholarship is awarded to a female member of the Student Voice, just as Kuyper Evans was. As mentioned, Kuyper Evans worked for the Student Voice newspaper during her time at UWRF and even worked in the role of Editor for a small period. Delaney shared with me that Kuyper Evans took her newspaper experience from UWRF and brought it across the sea. Before her passing in 1974, Kuyper Evans worked with her second husband John Evans for the US Army in Heidelberg, Germany, where she wrote and edited for the Armed Forces newspaper for multiple years before coming back to the states.  

Legacies and memories such as Kuyper Evans’ are kept alive and keep connecting people across time through different ways such as the scholarship at UWRF. I am honored to have learned and shared more about Kuyper Evans’ story after becoming connected through this scholarship. 

Although the time to apply for these scholarships has passed, students are encouraged to apply every year and information can be found on this portion of the website, https://www.uwrf.edu/FinancialAid/TypesOfAid/UWRFScholarships.cfm

Those who knew Kuyper Evans or want to donate to scholarships that make impacts on students at UWRF can find donation information here, https://www.uwrf.edu/Give/AboutUs/ 

Isabella Forliti is a student at UW-River Falls.