Nancy Bell Evans, 1933-2024, was one of UW’s biggest champions

Nancy Bell Evans with her husband, Dan, and children. (Photo courtesy of the Evans family)

Nancy Bell Evans was revered for her graceful, steadfast support of education, health care and arts and culture in the state of Washington. The longtime wife of former Gov. Dan Evans, ’48, ’49, died Jan. 26 at the age of 90.

“Nancy was a true civic leader who dedicated her life to helping others, including UW students and the state we all serve,” UW President Ana Mari Cauce said. “She was not only a supporter of the UW’s Evans School, she was an inspiration to the many students who will follow her footsteps into public service.”

Evans helped found and later served as chair of the Friends of Cancer Lifeline, national chair of the First Ladies’ Mental Health Month, a founding trustee of Planned Parenthood of Olympia and a founder of the Governor’s Mansion Foundation.

The phrase that came up most often when describing Evans was “a force of nature,” her family said in a statement to The Seattle Times.

Born Nancy Ann Bell in Spokane on March 21, 1933, she loved music, played piano for an orphanage and earned a degree in music from Whitman College. She met Dan Evans—then serving in the Washington state House of Representatives—during a ski trip. They were married in 1959. When he was elected governor in 1964, she became the youngest first lady in state history at the age of 31. Dan Evans served as governor of Washington from 1965 to 1977.

At the tail end of the Vietnam War, Dan invited Vietnamese refugees to come to the Evergreen State. The couple welcomed the first group of refugees to arrive.

Nancy was a member of the UW Foundation as well as the Dean’s Council at the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Policy & Governance. She also served on the visiting committee of the UW School of Public Health and was an honorary co-chair of the Evans School’s campaign.