Penny B. Evins Leads Collegiate School

Penny B. Evins begins her tenure today as Collegiate School’s Head of School.

Since being selected and accepting the position more than a year ago, Mrs. Evins has devoted time to learning the School’s mission and the School’s philosophy, as articulated by founder Helen Baker: “....Above everything else, I would have you live for humanity’s sake. I would have you good citizens in the widest sense.”
As she officially takes the helm, she not only can seamlessly recite these tenets, she (along with her family) is ready to embody their meaning and embrace the value they hold for everyone with a connection to Collegiate.

“The whole family is energized,” Mrs. Evins said of herself, her husband, Sam Evins V; her son, Sam VI, a rising 10th Grader, and her daughter, June Friend, a rising 9th Grader. “I am excited to meet new people, learn about a new culture and serve the community, past, present and future.”

Mrs. Evins comes to Collegiate from St. Paul’s School for Girls in Baltimore, where among other successes, she led the school’s healthy growth in enrollment and expanded the curriculum to include real-world experiences for students during her six-year tenure. Prior to her service to SPSG, she held a wide variety of positions, including counseling, division-level headships, admissions and strategic planning consultant in all divisions of some of the leading independent day schools in the Southeast.

A native of New Orleans, she attended Isidore Newman School. She is a graduate of Choate Rosemary Hall in Connecticut and received a B.A. in English and M.Ed. in counselor education from the University of Virginia.

Upon her departure as a beloved leader, the Board of Trustees at the St. Paul’s Schools established The Penny B. Evins Fund, which will support innovative endeavors, and SPSG also boasts a library and learning hub called the Penny B. Evins Learning Commons.

As she makes Collegiate home and immerses herself in the School’s already engaged community, she looks forward to sharing her passion for learning and community building with all she encounters.

“I suppose my educational philosophy is similar to my parenting philosophy: I want the best out of each individual in a community and therein, the best of a community at any given time,” she said. “Helping others reach their potential, their personal best, is an awesome and fulfilling way of living and leading. I believe such fruition comes from loving support and high standards.”

Mrs. Evins shared as much in a recent profile article produced by Head of School search firm Carney Sandoe & Associates. (Read her Carney Sandoe feature here: Penny Evins: My Journey to Headship)

She intends to spend this week and the next few exploring the campus and meeting the staff who keep it running and vibrant.

"I’ve had an opportunity to learn so much from Steve (Hickman, who retired as Collegiate’s Head of School on June 30) about the School’s wonderful progress and traditions,” she said. “Now I’ll be able to walk the grounds and see some of those stories come to life.

“I am at my best when I know the people with whom and for whom I practice my craft. I’ll get to know the 12-month employees (before school starts) so that I can learn the school inside out, before students get here,” she said. “I’ll be teaming with the administrative staff to learn about the synergies and opportunities across campus and getting to see the auxiliary programs in action during the summer months.”

She is looking forward to being a “helpful agent,” she said, advancing Collegiate’s mission and the Collegiate experience.

“I really do care about each child, and partnering with parents will be an honor,” she said. “I look forward to setting the tone that we’re all pulling in the same direction to grow the best citizens we can. It takes time to build those relationships, but I hope parents will know that I’m sure in my efforts to partner with them – not only with their individual children, but also for the greater School community and beyond. I can only do that if we’re all open and honest and share that same sense of hope and optimism for the future with each other.”

She will maintain a commitment to learning “beyond the book” that has always coursed through her role as a school leader.
“In almost every stage of my education, I found school hard, for different reasons at different times, and I call upon this experience to have empathy for students, families and faculty members. Learning, if lifelong, is neverending and involves stretch goals, healthy risks and mistakes-owning and trying not to repeat the same mistakes.”

Navigating this new journey alongside her will be Mr. Evins, who is a longtime educator is his own right.

“Sam, or “Coach Evins,” as he has been called for almost 40 years – even when serving as a division head – will be in charge of carpool for the family, looks forward to volunteering, perhaps coaching in time, and being the glue that holds the family together,” Mrs. Evins said. “Sam is a fan favorite. There is no job too small or large that he hasn’t taken on, and he will want to know and be known by the hearts and minds of Collegiate.”

The family dog, 7-year-old Ansley, will be a fixture on campus and already dons a Cougar paws collar; however, another important treasure is awaiting installation in her office near McFall Hall – an artistic rendering of butterflies affixed to wooden panels.

“I was given the butterflies by students I served in New Orleans when I was the Lower School Head (at Isidore Newman). They ground me and center me (and) help me to understand that … all of the communities I’ve served are with me, in my heart.

“I’ll have butterflies on my first day, but they’ll remind me that everyone is nervous on the first day. I’m looking forward to getting to know everyone through conversations and shared experiences and to discovering opportunities and harnessing the strengths of Collegiate.”