From floppy disks to AI: Retirement tribute to Bob Evans

After nearly 32 years of service in the Purdue University College of Education, Robert “Bob” Evans retired on May 20, 2024. Evans, director of Purdue IT in Education (formerly EdIT) and IT Security Officer for the College, also served as the chair of the College of Education Safety Committee and co-chair of the Beering Hall Safety Committee, and provided many colleagues with mentoring and the benefit of his experience.

Bob Evans smiling and holding a Helping Hands Award certificate.
Evans received a Helping Hands Award from Purdue in 2017, acknowledging his heart of service to all.
(Photo/Purdue University College of Education)

The College gave a reception in his honor on May 20 attended by colleagues, family, and friends.

Phillip J. VanFossen, interim dean of the College, gave a tribute to Evans, followed by remarks from several other colleagues. VanFossen spoke of Evan’s commitment to the College and its faculty and staff over his lengthy career: “Bob has guided the College from the era of dial-up internet access through the AI age with a sense of service. While he obviously has deep technical knowledge, it’s his focus on people that I will remember.”

Bob Evans sitting next to a computer server, monitor, and keyboard.
Evans with a server in 2002 (Photo provided by Kathy Evans)

“I have worked in our Education community for the better part of 32 years, since August 1992,” said Evans. “I have served under several deans, interim deans, associate deans, and faculty, and I have supervised 54 employees (co-workers!) during my time here. It has been such a fantastic experience and a great privilege working with you all.”

Dean Marilyn Haring hired Evans (BS HSSE ’86) as a computer technician on August 10, 1992, after he finished an associate’s degree in Computer Science. Prior to working in the then-School of Education he had worked as a student employee in Purdue Libraries/Technical Information Services (TIS), in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, and also in the School of Mechanical Engineering doing various projects such as programming and lab consulting. 

“One of the first people I worked with was then-Associate Dean Jerry Krockover and one of my assignments was to help move the School of Education, which was housed in numerous locations around campus, into the brand new Liberal Arts and Education Building (LAEB) – which ultimately became Beering Hall (BRNG),” Evans said. “I was also tasked with creating a database for the Office of Teacher Licensure and creating a Student Teacher Application for the Field Experiences office that students could run from a floppy disk, before we had servers and the Internet.”

A selfie of Bob Evans working in front of a dual-monitor setup.
Working with a smile (Photo provided by Kathy Evans)

“When we moved into LAEB/BRNG Hall, Dr. Franz Frederick and Dr. Jim Lehman became co-directors of the Technology Resources Center (TRC) and I reported to them as a computer technician in the TRC,” Evans explained. “Back then we were using dial-up modems to check email and when we moved into Beering Hall I worked on migrating the School to high speed Ethernet. Over time the College graciously promoted me to various positions as a technology coordinator, TRC managing director and then the College’s IT Director.”

As an example of Evans’ impact, VanFossen mentioned several database projects—crucial to the College success—that Evans designed, built, and implemented, “Bob taught himself how to build databases and we couldn’t have made it through our accreditation process without this knowledge.”

Bob Evans and Interim Dean VanFossen taking a photo. In their hands is a plaque for Evans.
Interim Dean Phillip J. VanFossen presents Evans with a plaque at his retirement party, which says: “In appreciation of your service as the Director of EdIT in the College of Education at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana.
Years of Service 1992-2024”

In the mid-2000s, the College of Education played a part in helping war-torn Afghanistan rebuild. The late Professor Charles “Chuck” Kline joined a campus-wide project referred to as the Purdue Afghanistan Project and asked then-Education IT to assist with a sub-component of the overall project by gathering and palettizing computers to be shipped to Kabul, Afghanistan. Evans led that initiative by preparing and shipping about 60 computers, monitors, mice, and keyboards starting in the spring of 2004, and about 30 more in the fall of 2006. He organized Purdue IT “work days” that brought many staff members together to box and palletize the computers and monitors. Purdue faculty used the computers to provide educational training/consulting services in Afghanistan and the project even brought some faculty members from Afghanistan back to Purdue.

Several colleagues mentioned not only Evans’ work, but his friendship with them.

“Bob is among the finest humans being I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing,” said Ted Fondak, lead IT site specialist and technician and a member of Evans’ IT team. “In the name of service to others, he transcends struggles and other obstacles that so easily ensnare people – with grace, humility, humor, an omnipresent twinkle in his eye, and sights firmly set on making the world a better place.”

The EdIT team smiling for a photo. From left to right is Bob Evans, Joshua Anderson, Mike Harrington, and Ted Fondak.
Education IT team (l to r): Evans, Josh Anderson, Mike Harrington, and Ted Fondak.
(Photo provided by Ted Fondak)

“He is probably one of the best problem solvers I know. Seems like the man can fix almost any situation and, if not, he probably knows someone who can,” said Josh Anderson, lead IT site specialist and technician and another member of Evans’ team. “I’m going to miss Bob for his charisma, dedication, dad jokes, and approachability. Bob’s door was always open and I always felt like he was someone I could go to no matter what.”

Bob Evans surrounded by colleagues at the Purdue Farmers Market.
College of Education colleagues and friends took Evans out for lunch at the
Purdue Farmers Market in May 2024. (Photo/DeEtte Starr)

“Bob is such a great example of providing competent, calm, kind service with a smile. His attitude has trickled down so that his whole unit is very responsive and service oriented,” said DeEtte Starr, director of communication. “He also informally mentored me when I was new in an administrative job and walked me through the process of hiring a much-needed employee. Without his practical and wise advice, the process would not have gone so smoothly. I learned so much from him.”

Summing up his career, Evans said, “We’ve come a long way as we have adopted waves of new technology over the decades, and I know that the College is in a good position to continue to adapt to emerging technology trends going forward.”

Congratulations, Bob – thank you and we’ll miss you!

Source:  Bob Evans,