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Stanford GSE mourns Eliza Evans, a doctoral candidate in Sociology of Education

Eliza Evans (Photo by Stanford Graduate School of Education)
Eliza Evans (Photo by Stanford Graduate School of Education)

Stanford GSE mourns Eliza Evans, a doctoral candidate in Sociology of Education

Evans, who died Aug. 9, is being remembered for her kind spirit, excellent teaching and deep intellect.

Editor's note: The family has released plans for a memorial service. The service will be held Sunday, Oct. 9, 10 a.m.-12 p.m., at Mitchell Park Community Center in Palo Alto.

Eliza Evans, a doctoral candidate at Stanford Graduate School of Education who studied the sociology of education and was recently awarded the university's Gerald J. Lieberman Fellowship for outstanding contributions to research, teaching and service, died Aug. 9.

Her husband, Eric Taylor, PhD '15, said the cause was metastatic breast cancer.

"We extend our deepest condolences to Eliza's family," said GSE Dean Daniel Schwartz. "Eliza was a passionate student and teacher. Our thoughts are with the entire community as we grieve this profound loss."

A deeply intellectual person, Evans impressed friends and colleagues with her ability to balance ambitious research projects with a number of extracurricular activities -- from soccer, swimming and golf to volunteering with Habitat For Humanity. 

"Eliza was a bright, shining star and a humble, grounded human being: incredibly talented, driven and warm," recalled her friend and colleague Charlie Gomez, PhD '16. "She really was such an inspiration to me, but more importantly, she was my friend."

In her nearly-completed dissertation, Evans studied faculty who engage in interdisciplinary research and how that interdisciplinary work affects their careers, especially tenure and reappointment decisions. Her research combined in-depth interviews with scholars and natural language processing of their written texts. Evans’ contributions were both substantive and methodological.

“Eliza developed innovative measures,” said her advisor Professor Dan McFarland, “measures for intellectual interdisciplinarity as well as for when research vocabularies reflect paradigmatic qualities of a developed intellectual field (i.e., high reproduction of core vocabulary but rapid turnover of peripheral terms). While prior work coined these terms in an effort to describe the social structure of science and scientific epistemologies, Eliza fleshed them out and gave them empirical grounding that was heretofore lacking.”

Those measures were described in two peer-reviewed publications earlier this year.

Evans' contributions to the GSE community extended well beyond her research. She loved teaching, both formally as a teaching assistant and informally when providing assistance to other students learning statistics and statistical software. She also enjoyed making new friends around campus and encouraged others to do the same.

"She was caring and compassionate, as well as being an excellent teacher of challenging concepts," remembered Ann Porteus, a senior lecturer at GSE. "She gave thoughtful and thorough feedback on student projects.  The students who worked with her loved her, as did I."

Eliza Dalton Evans was born in Lynchburg, VA. She graduated from the University of Virginia in 2007, with a bachelor's degree in English.

While at Stanford, she was the recipient of many awards and grants, including a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship in Sociology and the Lieberman fellowship from the Stanford Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education, which recognizes outstanding accomplishments, as well as the potential for leadership roles within the academic community.

McFarland recalled her thoughtful contributions and intellectual endeavors, describing Evans as "an exceptional student, advisee, collaborator and teacher."

Friends also remarked on her compassionate spirit.

"She was brilliant, kind, and went out of her way to make those around her feel special and cared for," recalled Cristina Lash, PhD '17. "Her bright smile, cheerfulness and patience in explaining statistics concepts without the least condescension will be sorely missed."

A memorial service will be held Oct. 9 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Mitchell Park Community Center in Palo Alto. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Habitat for Humanity. 

We invite you to express condolences below.
Kate McKinney and Shu-Ling Chen contributed to this report.


May her soul rest in peace.

It is a great loss for her family and the SU Community.
May She enjoy Eternity, resting in peace

A huge loss to her family, colleagues, friends, and the wider world. May her name be for a blessing.

In 2013-2014, Eliza was recruited as a research assistant to support the first Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education Faculty Scholar team. The program was envisioned as an opportunity to honor newly appointed Associate Professors from different disciplines for their excellence and commitment to teaching and research. The program goals are to build community and to promote professional development among the associate professoriate. Eliza researched faculty promotion statistics and metrics across the nation, and provided a framework for our team to consider the equity and disparity for professional development for Stanford faculty across disciplines . Eliza's excellence and team spirit radiated at our meetings. We all valued her insightful scholarship. Her tremendous efforts helped us to launch this successful program and implement change at Stanford. It was our great pleasure to work with Eliza. Most sincerely, Mary Beth Mudgett, Professor of Biology, on behalf of Faculty Scholars 2013-2014

From Eliza's brother, thank you for this touching and wonderful tribute to her.

I used to play soccer with Eliza and other friends from the Ed department. Eliza was the nicest, most positive person one could ever imagine. Unfortunately, we weren't particularly close, but hearing this news has made me very sad. All my thoughts are with her family, and especially with her widower. We will all miss you, Eliza.

My most sincere sympathies for your loss....

Eliza was one of the first students I counseled at E.C. Glass High School. She was awarded the prestigious Jefferson Scholar at the University of Virginia and was a standout person and student, including being the only female on the school golf team. She was quite the dynamic young lady and I truly enjoyed my time with her! What a terrific loss!

I was not fortunate enough to meet Eliza, but it is so apparent the impact she made in so many lives. To Pam, Bob and Seth my heart is broken for you and all of the families, friends and husband of this incredibly inspiring young woman. May God hold you and comfort you at this time and the many firsts you will have without this sweet angel by your side. Much love to all of you.

Have known your family from early days eating in our restaurant. What a great legacy established in a short life and sorry for your loss .

Eliza was an amazing individual who shared so much with us all through her positive outlook, keen observation and can-do attitude. It was my privilege to interact with Eliza through the Faculty Scholar cohort that Mary Beth mentions above, and we were fortunate for the opportunity to know her and learn from her. She will be missed and I send my deep and sincere condolences, thoughts and prayers to her family and friends.


I'm so, so sorry for your loss.

The Central Virginia Governor's School staff's thoughts and prayers are with the Evans family. We are proud to count Eliza among our graduates, and it is an honor to have her name in our permanent display of Faculty Award of Excellence winners (2003). It is clear Eliza continued to be a remarkable scholar and outstanding individual in many, many more classrooms and on both sides of the teacher's desk . While I didn't have the privilege of teaching Eliza, I did get to know this wonderful family when Seth was in my class and on my MathCounts team at Linkhorne Middle School, and my heart goes out to all of Eliza's loved ones. A donation has been made to the Greater Lynchburg Habitat for Humanity in Eliza's honor.

I have never met Eliza in person. I did have a few e-mail communications with her. She was always helpful and encouraging. She went out of her way to help me even before I was a fellow graduate student. She will be missed.

So sad for the Evans family!

I was also a member of the Faculty Scholar cohort mentioned by Mary Beth Mudgett and Beth Pruitt above. Eliza was a pleasure to work with - always positive, thoughtful, and willing to track down any information required for the analyses we were considering. It is heartbreaking to lose someone so young and so full of promise. My condolences go out to all of her friends and colleagues and, especially, her family. Jonathan Payne, Professor Geological Sciences

Wyoming will never forget our hero: Eliza came to Sheridan, Wyoming, to lead the construction teams on several Habitat for Humanity projects. Everyone who met her was won over. In a small town you get to know someone through at least three different avenues. Eliza was my next-door neighbor, she led the volunteer community, and she became my friend. So sad the world has lost her, but her light is still shining in everyone she touched.

I was to meet Eliza in person, for the first time, at the ASA conference in Seattle this past weekend. On my way to her presentation, I was shocked and devastated to learn from Dan that her life has been cut much too short. I had no idea she had been battling cancer, and never would have guessed because she was always so forward looking and positive. We had met via Skype many times, read each other's papers, and discussed possible research collaborations and job market strategies. There is no young scholar even in my own field of sociology who is doing research so close to my interests, and I am deeply saddened that I will not be able to have her as a colleague and intellectual comrade for decades to come. Eliza was incredibly bright and curious, and had the rare knack for explaining her highly technical work in a very lucid way. It gives me great comfort to know that her work will live in through her publications. To her family who love and miss her the most, please know that she touched people you may have never even heard of. I send my deepest condolences to you.

She came to our swim club, Cambridge Masters at Harvard and brought , fun and hard work and a lovely way of being. We miss her terribly and mourn for Eric and her parents and brother and all the other folks she loved. She was like a shooting star to us, bright for such a short time. She made others feel good around her.

Professor Leahey, Eliza spoke so highly of you to me on several occasions, considered you an invaluable mentor, and was very much looking forward to collaborating with you in the future. She felt your advice was instrumental in having her recent work published prior to entering the job market. I also thank you for that. I appreciate your sharing your thoughts about Eliza with us. As you might imagine, we are having a very difficult time.

I met Eliza in Haiti in 2012 while working with Habitat
Eliza was a beacon of light in a desolate country.
John O'Connor

Eliza was both very kind and insightful. So sad to hear about her loss.

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