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Oklahoma Veterinarian Serves on National Advisory Committee for Minority Farmers
DO Unto Others
United States Department of Agriculture taps Oklahoma veterinarian to serve on national advisory committee for minority farmers
Story by Leilana McKindra
Photos by Todd Johnson
The way Dr. Claud Evans sees it, a person should not only work to be successful in life, but also strive to be significant.
“We should try to be successful, but success, if you really look at it, is a very selfish, self-centered action,” the longtime veterinarian and Oklahoma State University alumnus explained on an early spring day in April. “Your success is what you do for yourself. Your significance is determined not by what you do for yourself, but what you do for someone else.”
This is just one important life lesson Dr. Evans likes to stress to young people, and particularly college graduates. There are others, including one about making the most of your “dash.”
“You can walk through any cemetery and look at the headstones. Everything will be different except the dash, that period between birth and death,” he continued. “It’s what we do with our dash that’s important and helps to determine our significance.”
He adds a third strand of wisdom, this one he learned as a young boy from his father after being assigned a chore he felt he couldn’t do and said as much to his father.
“[My father] stopped what he was doing and said, ‘son, I killed can’t, I whipped couldn’t until he could, and I’m gonna whip you until you do if you don’t.’ Needless to say, I finished doing what I just said I couldn’t do,” Dr. Evans recalled.
“The thing I try to get young people to understand is ‘can’t’ is not the best first answer. You try. In trying, many times you will come up with a solution that may be different than anything you thought about before.”
The good doctor shifts on the orange hard plastic chair in the waiting room of the Okfuskee County Veterinary Clinic, which he has owned and operated in the same location for 33 years. He’s currently Okemah’s only vet.
It’s edging toward mid-day, though outside the sun is tucked behind gray clouds, and the ground is soaked from morning rain showers.
Inside, Dr. Evans’ zippered light blue smock stamped with D.V.M. identifies his profession and silently backs up his credentials and expertise as he dispenses detailed instructions to the mix of regular and walk-in clients flowing through the clinic doors each day.
If it isn’t clear from the conviction lacing his tone, the poster board-sized thank you card signed by a group of grateful children hanging on a wall to his far left provides another clue.
So do the two wooden rocking horses parked in the middle of the waiting area he and two friends build and give away to children facing illnesses and other potentially overwhelming circumstances.
In fact, embedded in a career decorated with service to agriculture and higher education in Oklahoma and throughout the nation, there’s a landslide of evidence that Dr. Evans doesn’t only believe the words he speaks, he lives them.
Some of the most recent proof lies in one of Dr. Evans’ latest and most high-profile opportunities. After being tapped by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for a seat on the U.S. Department of Agriculture Minority Farmers Advisory Committee, Dr. Evans is currently more than a year into a two-year, renewable term with the 15-member group.
As honored as he is at being appointed by Secretary Vilsack, Dr. Evans also is deeply appreciative of the chance to serve a group of people who are sometimes underserved by federal resources available to farmers in general.
There’s no doubt his 16-year tenure on the OSU/A&M Board of Regents helped pave the way to the high-level national committee. Serving as one of Oklahoma’s two representatives on the Southern Region Council on Agricultural Research, Extension and Teaching since 1999 didn’t hurt, either.
He also is a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council for the OSU Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.
Dr. Evans said he’s chosen to remain active with and through his alma mater because “we all owe something to somebody” and he enjoys giving back.
“When you actually see the kids go across the stage and get their degrees and you know you played some part in the governance of the institution where that occurred, it makes you feel pretty good,” he said. “CARET is made up of individuals who have been hand picked by their deans so you get a chance to be around people who are doing some pretty amazing things. That’s a personal satisfaction because I get to meet a lot of smart people.”
A native of Poteau, Oklahoma, Dr. Evans earned a bachelor of science degree in agricultural biochemistry from OSU in 1966 and received a doctorate of veterinary medicine from Tuskegee Institute in 1970 to follow in the footsteps of a childhood mentor, Dr. John W. Montgomery, who at one time, also served two terms as an OSU/A&M Regent.
“When I went to college, my goal was to be a veterinarian and I maintained that same goal until it happened,” he said.
Dr. Evans spent 11 years as a veterinarian and in management with Ralston Purina Company in St. Louis; Davenport, Iowa; and San Diego before he and his wife Elayne, returned to their native Oklahoma in 1982 to help with her parents’ cattle operation and family farm, which included Spanish meat goats with a gene for cashmere.
This spring the couple celebrated 50 years of marital bliss — he calls convincing her to marry him his greatest personal accomplishment — including raising two children and enjoying four grandchildren. In the intervening years, Dr. Evans has managed to balance home and family obligations against those related to important committees and boards along with the demands of his veterinary practice and one of his proudest professional accomplishments — the invention and manufacture of a mobility unit designed to assist animals with posterior paralysis.
Available in four sizes and sold nationwide, the welded metal units with powder coating comes with an option for hard plastic or all-terrain wheels.
Over the years, he’s partnered with different companies to help manufacture the units, but these days, he makes them in the shop behind the clinic.
“They’re welded and made here. We buy a load of steel. We have the benders and welding machine,” Dr. Evans said. “We have a building we’ve built in back of the clinic that will take care of that.”
The mobility units aren’t the only projects taken care of in the building behind the clinic. That’s also where wooden child-size rocking horses like the ones in the waiting area come to life under the steady hands of Dr. Evans and two longtime friends. So far, over the past five years, the trio has crafted about 70 of the low-tech toys guaranteed to provide plenty of nonstop fun for any child happily balanced on their saddles. They aren’t for sale and no money is required or requested for supplies or labor.
The toys only go to children they know are facing challenging circumstances or to organizations doing something significant for others. For instance, this past Christmas, two went to survivors affected by the OSU Homecoming parade tragedy, and earlier this year, one went to benefit the Tulsa Boys Home.
“A lady has a little girl who was basically born with cancer in the optic nerves. I gave her a horse. I knew this little girl. The mother called and said ‘my daughter was so timid and afraid and withdrawn, but that horse has really brought her out. She gets on that horse and rides with reckless abandon,’” he recalled. “That makes you feel really good.”
Though he is closer to retirement age than not, Dr. Evans has no itch to hang up his stethoscope or curb his role in shaping policies and programs aimed at making people’s lives better.
Nor has he spent any time contemplating what he wants people to say or think or remember about him. For now, he’s content to let the life he’s led do the talking for him.
“I just try to live an honest and fair life and people can say what they want,” he said. “I know if I treat people right – and when I say right, my goal is to treat people the way I would want to be treated – I’m not going to be wrong too many times. I want people to be able to say I was fair and honest. I want my grandkids to say I’m a good grandpa.”
More stories like this are available for members of the OSU Alumni Association. STATE magazine is a benefit of membership in the OSU Alumni Association. To join or update your membership go to orangeconnection.org/join
Uploaded on September 1, 2016