Purdue Psychological Sciences receives gift to name headship, elevate department

Written By: Rebecca Hoffa, rhoffa@purdue.edu

Louise Evans and Tom Gambrell sit a table together smiling for a photo

Louise Evans and Tom Gambrell pose for a photo together two days after their wedding in 1960.(Photo provided)

Internationally recognized clinical psychologist and Purdue University College of Health and Human Sciences alumna Louise Evans carried a legacy of charity work and a career dedicated to improving mental health prior to her death in September 2021.

To honor her memory and recognize her contributions to the field, Thomas Gambrell, Evans’ husband of 61 years, has established an endowment to name the headship of Purdue’s Department of Psychological Sciences as the Dr. Louise Evans Head of Psychological Sciences. His intent for the gift is that it will not only help to drive forward the department’s reputation but also advance educational opportunities for students.

Evans earned her master’s degree and PhD in clinical psychology at Purdue, where she was reported to have one of the highest IQs recorded at the university at that time. Upon graduating with her doctorate in 1955, she accepted a postdoctoral fellowship in clinical child psychology at the Menninger Foundation in Topeka, Kansas, and was the first woman psychologist to complete the program.

Evans had memberships, leadership positions and credentials in many psychology organizations, including the International Council of Psychologists and the American Board of Professional Psychologists. Evans also received countless awards within the field and was featured many times in Marquis’ Who’s Who publications.

“This named headship will honor Dr. Louise Evans’ legacy of excellence by helping us to attract strategic, creative, visionary leadership for Psychological Sciences for decades to come,” said Marion K. Underwood, dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences. “We greatly appreciate Dr. Gambrell’s generous gift to name the Department of Psychological Sciences’ headship.”

Gambrell met Evans at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, where Evans had taken a position to get more career experience after her postdoctoral fellowship and where Gambrell was doing his internship after finishing medical school. He recalls hearing Evans’ Texas drawl emanating from the center of a crowd of people each day in the staff dining room. One day, he walked over to talk to her, and the two quickly began spending more time together. They were married in 1960. For Gambrell, there wasn’t anything about Evans that a person couldn’t like, from her intelligence to her kindness to her beauty.

After marrying Gambrell, Evans left academia, where she had been teaching at Washington University in St. Louis, and started her private practice in Orange County, California. It was during that time that she founded the Orange County Society of Clinical Psychologists. She also served on a committee that achieved legislation requiring health insurance coverage for mental health treatment.

Louise Evans poses with an award plaque

Louise Evans receives the Citizenship Award from Purdue in 1975.(Photo provided)

Gambrell noted one of Evans’ defining characteristics was her compassion and desire to help others, whether that was through her charity work or as a psychologist, where many times she had offered her professional services for free to those in need. Gambrell said he thinks Evans would approve of the gift being made to help Purdue’s Department of Psychological Sciences continue to thrive for years to come.

“She enjoyed helping people — it was part of her identity, and this is a way of making a connection with that for me,” Gambrell said.

In addition to the awards she earned within her field, Evans received many honors from Purdue as well, including the Citizenship Award for Contributions to Mental Health in 1975; a Distinguished Alumni Award in 1993 from the College of Liberal Arts, where the clinical psychology program was housed at the time; and induction into the Purdue Old Masters program in 1993.

“I knew that Purdue was a special place for me at that first awards ceremony where they presented her the citizenship award because at the end of it, they sang the school song,” Gambrell said. “Dr. (Arthur G.) Hansen was the president at the time, and the former president, Dr. (Frederick L.) Hovde, was there on the dais also, and he began to cry when they sang the song. I figure anybody who feels that way about the school is all right with me.”

Gambrell noted this gift will be an addition to Gambrell and Evans’ other charitable giving throughout their lifetime together, including gifts of an acre of land to a township in upstate New York, a building in Texas to the American Legion and monetary gifts to a variety of organizations.

“I wanted to do this for Louise and Purdue,” Gambrell said. “Louise loved Purdue and spoke a lot of fond memories of her time there, and Purdue was very generous to her in helping to further her career and in bestowing honors upon her. This is a gift she would have wanted Purdue to have. And it is a happy thing for me to do because it is a fine university with exemplary people to which any parent would want to entrust their child. So, I am content that this gift will commemorate her memory — sweet, beautiful, smart, accomplished student, helpmate and person in life that she was — further the best interests of the Department of Psychological Sciences and give me a measure of solace.”

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