February 21, 2003
By Bobbie Smith
Board of Education President
Edward Eveland, our colleague who worked as a teacher, administrator and a Board of Education member, died recently after more than 50 years of dedicated service to our schools. On behalf of the Board of Education of the Long Beach Unified School District, I want to express our deepest heartfelt sympathy to Dorian Eveland and to her children--Ed's grandchildren--Tova, Timothy, Tyler, Tahnia and Trevor. He was so proud of you. He told us you meant so much to him--especially during these past few months as he faced the loss of the love of his life, Marilyn, and then setbacks in his own health. You were there for him when he really needed you.
Everyone feels so fortunate to have known this good man. Ed was so much more than a colleague or a neighbor or a friend. He was like family. We appreciated his sage advice and straight-talking no-nonsense advocacy of what was best for kids. Ed understood what was important in life--what really mattered. He figured out a long time ago that a good family and a good education gave you a huge advantage in life.
He devoted his life to giving the advantage of learning to others. You may not know that as a young Poly High School graduate, he headed north to the University of Oregon to become a lawyer. When he realized he might lose Marilyn to another suitor, he returned to Long Beach and enrolled at Long Beach State. He ended up with a degree in English and a bride he cherished.
His contributions to our schools are legendary. He excelled as a teacher at Wilson and then as activities director at Lakewood and vice principal at Stanford, Hill and Poly. He was a superb principal at Jefferson, Poly, Wilson and Millikan. As Assistant Superintendent for our secondary schools, Ed had a clear vision and total commitment to the belief that every student could learn. He did his best to make that happen for thousands of students every day.
Ed was a big-hearted, down-to-earth, outspoken advocate for high standards for all kids. For 50 years, he set about delivering on the American Dream. He always had time for a word of encouragement, a thoughtful gift, a school story or a grand vision of what could be: school uniforms, the Classical High School, the end of social promotion, higher standards for all kids from all backgrounds. He helped so many kids get a better education --future star athletes, distinguished surgeons and just regular kids. Many excelled under his leadership to become real scholars and champions.
The loss of his son in a tragic car accident was a shattering experience for Ed and his family. But he immersed himself in his work and reached out to help the sons and daughters of others. In fact, throughout his career, Ed was not out there doing things for Ed. He was out there doing things for others. When racial tensions were running high in the community, he invited his staff at Jefferson to spend a Sunday at Rev. Joe Chaney's church. After several hours of sermons, singing and soul food, they had a new appreciation and respect for the background of many of the families they served. Ed was always building bridges that way.
When there was serious interracial conflict at Poly years ago, he knew that in order for those difficulties to be addressed there had to be a coming together. And that's how that school was transformed. Ed was there to help it happen. It's a practical lesson we must always remember here in the most diverse large city in America.
Despite all the serious issues and challenges he dealt with, he always had great fun, enjoyed life, savored his many friendships and went out of his way to be kind and helpful. He was a hero to his colleagues, to kids in the neighborhood, to everyone from the custodian to the superintendent. He loved to fish and to cook. He also loved to motivate people to do the right thing for kids--even if it was controversial. He loved to shake up the status quo to find a better way of reaching kids.
Only a few weeks ago, after being hospitalized, he returned to serve on the Board of Education. He announced at a school board meeting, "The rest of my life will be devoted to the kids and schools." Two weeks ago he played in a Wilson golf tournament. He was looking forward to 2004. He never complained. He had great courage and was totally committed to the students. He was determined to get back to work. He looked forward to a new service learning initiative that would require all high school students to complete 40 hours of community service related to courses they were taking. No one believed in community service more than Ed.
When Ed heard that some families needed help paying for school uniforms, he fired off a letter to a few hundred of his closest friends and raised $5,000 in just a few days.
There are many Ed Eveland stories. We all know him from a slightly different vantage point, but all of us looked up to Ed. Today we just have to look a little bit higher.
Ed's legacy reminds us always to do what is best for students--no matter what the challenge might be. He gave us that special will to win--even when the outlook isn't rosy.
He knew that, in the long run, a thoughtful act of kindness and love--what we do when we help a child get a good education--really matters. It mattered to him.