Joseph “Joey” Evans, was a friend, tutor, son, grandson, brother and CU student who died tragically on Monday, October 15, 2018. At 20, Joey was a senior in the Applied Mathematics Department working towards a dual degree in math and computer science.
Since high school, Joey was known for his passion, interest, and exceptional ability in mathematics. Many of his fellow students, Boulder High School (BHS) teachers, and CU Professors recall his desire to learn about mathematics and his tendency to ask many, many questions. At the high school level, his freshman Algebra 1 teacher, Rose Ogilvie, recalls Joey asking very “high level questions,” suggesting he understood the material far beyond his peers. From there Joey was influential in the BHS mathematics club, and in May 2016 BHS awarded him “Special Recognition” - an award given only to BHS students that exhausted all mathematics courses available at BHS and who took mathematics courses at CU while still a student at BHS. Those who receive this award are considered “extremely accelerated, intelligent, and motivated” in the field of mathematics.
Joey continued his passion, hard work, and desire to learn mathematics into his full-time career at CU Boulder. Like his high school teachers, many of his instructors and professors recall him asking questions that helped other students in the class understand the material, in part, by getting instructors to explain the material in many different ways to answer his many questions. According to professor Harvey Segur, Joey's questions "helped me to recognize where students were having trouble...[and] helped me to understand where my answers had not addressed his concerns. "Even outside of the classroom, Joey worked very hard to achieve his goals. According to fellow students, he worked hard - always picking up more jobs, and was very cognizant of his financial situation and future. One such job was as a tutor at the Mathematics Academic Resource Center (MARC). His co-workers and those he tutored recall him being very helpful, passionate, and knowledgeable. Dan Moritz, Joey’s mentor and MARC supervisor, has said that Joey was instrumental in putting the MARC on the map.
Given Joey’s diligence and dedication, it was no surprise that he received the Gordon Memorial Scholarship in Engineering for the 2018-2019 academic year. It was also no surprise that he was awarded two grants during his time as a student - the Colorado Student Grant and the CU Promise Grant.
Beyond his academic achievements, Joey was considered a great friend, student, brother, and son. Joey will be remembered as a bright light for friends and family. His cheerful smile and goofy tie seemed to brighten everyone’s day. Joey loved helping others excel and shared his passion for math and philosophy with everyone whose life he touched. He could often be seen cycling the Boulder bike paths seeing the beauty and wonder in the universe and everyone around him.
The Evans family accepted a posthumous degree in Applied Mathematics on behalf of Joseph during the Spring 2019 commencement ceremony on May 9th, 2019.
Below are stories and statements submitted by those who knew Joey.
Rose Ogilvie, Joey's Freshman Algebra 1 Teacher:
I first met Joey when he was a freshman in my advanced algebra 1 class at Boulder High School. Within a few days he had shown an aptitude in asking questions. Lots of them. I quickly realized that I needed to approach things differently so I asked Joey to stay after class so I could get to know him and what was truly driving all these questions. Not only did he understand enough to be asking the high level questions he was beginning to ask (way beyond his peers in class) but he also had a burning desire within him to just know EVERYTHING about mathematics.
Since he needed to learn the algebra skills from the class, but already had a major grasp of big, over-arching ideas, we came up with a new plan. Joey would write all of his "big" questions that were outside the daily topics down and come in after school or lunch to meet with me and we would go through them together. This worked brilliantly for Joey and I encouraged him to double up math classes for the next year at the advanced level and to continue this strategy with his future teachers.
Joey soon discovered/reinvigorated the Math Club and I remember often being the last teacher in the math wing after school, finally telling the Math Club students they really had to go home, having listened to excited debate about mathematical theory until 5:00 or later. Joey seemed to really enjoy that time.
To say Joey was successful in mathematics in high school would be an understatement. Between freshman year, and starting in algebra one, and graduation four years later, he had completed all levels of math through Calculus III, an unheard of accomplishment.
Joey was always kind, friendly, respectful and helpful to others. Not only a great student to work with but a wonderful person to know. I cannot fully express how saddened I am that our community has lost Joey's shining light, his beautiful smile, amazing mind and his kind heart.
Joey you will be missed. We all wish you peace.
Daniel Moritz, Joey's Mentor and Supervisor at the MARC:
Joey was an exuberant tutor. He loved being in the MARC, talking about math, and helping others. At times his exuberance (and voice) was over the top and I took him under my wing to give him some “social tact” training. Through our interactions, I feel like he taught me a little more than I taught him. He often wore a tie as a headband and I questioned if this made him an “approachable” tutor. He looked at me confused and said he could take the tie off, but he felt that wearing his tie-head-band was his self expression making him feel comfortable and in turn, making those seeking help comfortable. I felt ashamed for asking Joey to change himself and have hence let Joey’s spirit of compassion and self expression infuse the MARC. He will be dearly missed, and I will hold his spirit close to my heart.
Harvey Segur, One of Joey's Professors:
He was in the class that I taught during the first 6 or 7 weeks of the Fall 2018 semester. What I remember from the few weeks Joey was in my class was that Joey stood out, even on the first day of class, for various reasons. Of course, he was wearing a tie, like no one else in the class. He had a big smile on his face, not only during the first class, but most of the time – it seemed clear that he enjoyed learning.
He especially stood out because he was willing to ask questions, right from Day 1. Usually, if a student asks a question during a class, other students in the same class are also confused, but they don’t want to admit publicly to their confusion. Joey’s pertinent questions often helped other students understand the material, and they helped me to recognize where students were having trouble. I remember especially one class period in which a new idea was introduced. (I no longer remember what the new idea was.) Joey asked a question about this new idea, and I answered him. But my answer did not clarify what concerned him, and he asked a second question. We went through this dance at least three times before I finally understood which aspect of the new idea was confusing to him. In that case, his sequence of questions not only helped other students to understand the material better, but they also helped me to understand where my answers had not addressed his concerns.
I first met Joey at Boulder High’s math club, back before he knew calculus. By the time I was a sophomore at CU he had finished or skipped all the math classes BHS had to offer and was taking classes at CU. Every morning he would ask me a million questions, most of which I couldn’t answer. The next year he started taking the same classes as while he was still in high school. He had not only a talent for math, but a passion and dedication I haven’t seen anywhere else. He also had this presence that while it was sometimes obnoxious, always had a positive impact. He was always cracking jokes with the biggest smile on his face. The one I will always remember is, “Ask your doctor if algebraic topology is right for you.” It’s impossible for me to express fully how he impacted me and how special of a person he was, but he’ll never be forgotten.
Jordan Watts, One of Joey's Instructors:
While I only had Joey as a student for one class (Differential Geometry in Spring 2017), we both knew each other before he took it. That’s the thing about Joey: he had a very positive presence, and a love of mathematics, which made conversation with him (whether mathematical or not) pleasantly inevitable, even if he was not your student or classmate. And the ties, of course, made him stick out! If I ever were to start wearing ties, I hope I can do so with as much pizzazz as him!
I loved having him in my class, and the intermittent conversations we had in the hallway or elsewhere on campus. He will most definitely be missed. My deepest condolences to his family.
I just heard about Joey. It’s really heart-wrenching news. The MARC and its community are important to me even now that I’m gone, and I wish I could have been there to share my perspective in some way. I grew to know Joey well, and had many long and often deeply philosophical conversations with him. I came to see myself as somewhat of a mentor for him, as well as a friend. It’s safe to say we’ll never know another guy like Joey and I know he will be missed there by many, and also by me.
I met Joey when I was working in the MARC last year. Whenever he would come in, he’d be smiling cheek to cheek and wearing his trademark ties without fail. He would always have something funny or interesting to say which would brighten my day. I remember that when I was preparing for my trip to Italy, he would always ask me about it and would be so genuinely interested in what I had to say. I had some very hard days here and there, and I don’t think he realized how much talking with him helped me get through those days. I also remember how he would sit and work at the desk behind me, and when I asked what he was working on, he would say something like “Oh, just thinking about this high level theoretical math problem. I’m going to solve it!” Such a smart and inherently curious guy. He was the sweetest goofball I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, and I’m so glad that I was able to know him.
I’ve known Joey since we took Abstract Algebra together several years ago, but I only started getting to know him this semester. I wish I had started learning more about him earlier because it has been an absolute pleasure. We’ve both been working on Monday evenings, and thanks to Joey, what could have been boring, slow, hours were actually lively and interesting. He would always have something to talk about - whether it be math or his stocks - and could always crack a joke and put a smile on my face. Joey will be sorely missed and I am so very sorry for your loss.
Joey was a wonderful and kind person. He was always willing to help anyone who came into the MARC. Over the summer, he put in additional work to help Probability students by talking with me about solutions, after he solved them on his own time. Such a gentle and kind soul will surely be missed in the MARC and this world.
Joey is the sun in the sky.
His heart is water in the river.
His favorite number surely was pi.
His intuition of Analysis made you quiver.
Joey, genuine and true.
Now your soul is in the universe
And sadness in my heart will accrue,
But your death is not a curse.
Everything you do is out of love and selflessness
Every compliment you give is just.
Joey Evans, I must confess,
Your traits that made you admirable… I will trust,
Thank you Joey Evans,
For everything you do.
For you, I hold great reverence,
And I will think of you until I die, too.
Here’s to my soulmate cousin, one of a kind kid with a heart of gold and a head full of curiosity. Even though distance was between us, it never really felt like it. Our conversations on the phone would last a long time, with Joey telling me about all the new stuff he had been up too. Sometimes I couldn’t get a word in.
A rememberable moment for me was when I visited Joey in Colorado and went to school with him for the day. He was an absolute wiz in every class and all he wanted to do was learn about people and always pushing to learn new things in class. It was very inspirational to me, to see him so young and so curious about knowledge.
And even up to his last days, I still saw that same curiosity and yering to learn and know more. The love and passion he got out of education and helping other achieve their goals in education.
Joey still to this day, inspires me to be more and know more. To shoot for the stars and keep aiming higher. To be humble and confident in what I do.
I remember very well, one of our conversations. He said to me “Madi, why don’t you become an engineer, and work with me?”, And I laughed very hard, in which he was silent. (I thought he was joking) I stopped laughing and then he said seriously, “It’s not a joke Madi, you can do anything you want to do, you're a smart girl.” That right there is a snippet of who he was, and it will forever stay in my mind.
I miss you more than you know Joey, and I will keep working hard in honor of you.
Should anyone wish to mail a check rather than donate online please mail to:
Assistant Director of Development
Office of Advancement
College of Arts & Sciences, Graduate School, and Research Institutes
University of Colorado Boulder
1305 University Ave., Boulder, CO 80302
Please designate your donation in the memory of Joey Evans.