The people of the National Solar Observatory and the worldwide solar community have lost one of their greatest friends, supporters, colleagues, and mentors. John W. (Jack) Evans, first Director of the Sacramento Peak Observatory (Sac Peak), from 1952 to 1976, and his wife, Elizabeth (Betty), died on October 31st at their home in Santa Fe. He was 90 and she was 89. They had been married 67 years.
Jack, who received his PhD from Harvard in 1938, was the third recipient (1982) of the Hale Prize of the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society. He won the David Richardson Medal (1987) of the Optical Society of America, and was given Honorary Doctor of Science degrees by the University of New Mexico (1967) and Swarthmore College (1970). He received the Newcomb Cleveland Prize of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1957) and was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1964). He also received a number of prizes and awards from the Air Force, which operated the Sacramento Peak Observatory while he was the Director, including the Rockefeller Award for Distinguished Public Service (1969), the Distinguished Civilian Service Award (1965), the Guenter Loeser Memorial Award (1967), and the Outstanding Achievement Award (1970).
Starting from a bare site in the Lincoln National Forest, Jack collected an outstanding scientific staff, and with their help, built Sac Peak into the world's premier solar observatory. During those years Sac Peak was such a magnet that over 80% of all US solar astronomers, and over 60% of solar physicists worldwide, spent time at Sac Peak. A number of these scientists later became Directors of other solar institutions. The observatory cost about $100 million to build and remains the only nationally supported solar observatory in the United States. It is now financed chiefly by the National Science Foundation
The Evans are survived by their daughter Nancy, of Santa Fe, by another daughter, Jeanne Regentin of Harbor Springs, Michigan, and by a son, Wayne, of San Carlos, Mexico.
A memorial service for Jack and Betty Evans was held at the Sunspot Astronomy and Visitor Center on November 12, 1999, with family, friends, and former colleagues in attendance.