Professor emeritus continues serving the community and the profession
If Noah’s ark sails again it could make a fruitful boarding stop in the office of Howard Evans, BS ’44, PhD ’50. A microcosm of biodiversity, this miniature museum is decked floor to ceiling with animal specimens from across the globe. Yet it models only a brief sample of the expansive zoological knowledge Evans holds. This professor emeritus is a proficient anatomist whose life is rich with stories of worldwide adventures, a tireless fascination for how life is built across kingdoms, and an equal delight in sharing this beauty with others.
“Everyone should know some anatomy because it’s the basis of how animals act and what they do,” said Evans. Since joining the Veterinary College’s Department of Anatomy in 1950, he has taught thousands of veterinarians the inside story of how animals work, with courses spanning species from farm to domestic to exotic.
With a joy in teaching as indiscriminate as his joy in nature, he advised Cornell’s undergraduate zoology club, served on 37 graduate committees, and spent 20 summers teaching the AQUAVET program for aspiring aquatic specialists. This generous collaborative spirit extended to his colleagues at the College, where he served as Secretary of the Faculty for twelve years and chaired the department of Anatomy for ten.
He has served the profession’s future through over 160 publications, including his seminal text, Miller’s Anatomy of the Dog, which he and Sandy deLahunta are currently updating to a new full-color edition. He has edited several anatomy journals, and served as consultant for anatomy programs in universities including Tufts, University of Georgia, UC Davis, and international universities in Grenada, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Taiwan, and Japan.
For Evans, retirement means more time for teaching. “Leading trips for Cornell Adult University (CAU) has been good fun, and gave me the chance to collect more specimens for Cornell’s Museum of Vertebrates,” said Evans. Since retiring in 1986 Evans has led scores of Cornell alumni across the world in over a dozen educational expeditions through CAU. Traveling to New Guinea, Australia, Tanzania, Kenya, and more, his recent Antarctic expedition introduced him to the Gentoo penguin skeleton now adorning his desk.
With bins brimming full of tangible treasures including stuffed animals, bones, fossils, and more, Evans now takes his show on tour. The energetic 88-year-old regularly presents on natural history topics across Cornell, including at Alice Cook House, where he is a Faculty Fellow and frequently dines with undergraduate residents. He and his wife, Erica, continue yearly pilgrimages to teach fish structure at Cornell’s Shoals Marine Lab, and he still gives anatomy lectures at the College.
His natural treasures and world of experience fascinate children at local elementary schools, where his visits are in high demand. Twice a week in the fall he gives classrooms a taste of nature’s spectacular show and tell.
“Teachers try to encourage kids to ask questions. But when they get excited about nature they just love to tell stories,” Evans laughed. As a storytelling scientist gifted at both these arts, Evans can relate.