Magazine Feature / People

Former real estate chair was a leader in the home building industry

Lee Evans’ impact on the housing industry was so monumental that he was named one of the 100 most influential people in the industry in the 20th century, according to an article by Builder magazine.

Evans, who helped develop DU’s real estate program in the 1940s, died Nov. 7 from pancreatic cancer. He was 92.

“This is the end of an era for the housing industry,” says Shinn Consulting’s Chuck Shinn, who worked with Evans for 40 years.

Although Evans left DU in 1971 to pursue his home-building consulting business full time, he stayed tied to the school. He was the only emeritus professor in the Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management in DU’s Daniel’s College of Business.

“He never lost his interest in the education of our upcoming builders,” says Marie Kline, associate director of the Burns School. Evans and his wife, Virginia, endowed a scholarship for students in the program who planned to enter the industry as homebuilders, she says.

“He was a continuing presence in the Burns program,” Kline says.

Lee Evans was born March 1, 1917, in Superior, Colo. As a child, Evans developed a strong interest in the outdoors and animals, which became a big part of his life. He worked as a wrangler and helped herd sheep, according to his 2002 autobiography From Happy Valley to the Mountaintop.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in 1940 from the University of Colorado and an MBA in 1941 from Northwestern University. During the 1940s, he worked as an investment manager evaluating stocks and company financials to make wartime investment recommendations.

He joined DU in 1946 and for 18 years was the youngest full professor at DU.

“What he did on campus was always oriented at DU,” says Art Mason, former Daniels dean. “He was always a dedicated teacher in that sense.”

One of his greatest achievements was teaching thousands of students during his tenure, Evans wrote in a letter to the University in 1988. “He was very devoted to [his students],” Mason says. “He worked them hard because he was very proud of that program.”

While at DU, Evans began consulting for home builders during his free time, spending his weekends, evenings and vacations offering management training. It was an exciting time in the housing industry as GIs returning from World War II bought homes for their growing families, Shinn explains.

Evans gave home builders the management training and processes that allowed them to price their homes correctly, understand and control their costs and make and sustain profitability.

“He allowed the builders to grow and be successful in a high-risk industry,” Shinn says.

Evans left the University in 1971 and was awarded the title of professor emeritus.

Perhaps most important to Evans were the seminars he gave on the industry throughout the country.

“The demand for the seminars was very strong,” Mason says. “I would visit him on his ranch [in Nederland, Colo.] and we’d go fishing and he would tell me about the seminars.”

Evans was named to the National Housing Hall of Fame in 1988.

When Evans retired from business in 1992, Shinn carried on his training and consulting for builders, naming his educational organization the Lee Evans Group in honor of Evans’ contributions.

“He will be missed by the industry … and by me,” Shinn says. “However, his legacy will live on through the legion of people in the industry who are his disciples.

“I love Lee as a son reveres a father.”

In addition to his wife, Virginia, Evans is survived by children Joseph Evans, Kayla Lee Evans and Tamara Evans Holmboe. He also leaves seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, Nov. 21, at 2 p.m. at Calvary Chapel in Nederland. Memorial contributions can be made to the Lee and Virginia Endowed Scholarship Fund at DU; the Lee and Virginia Evans scholarship, National Housing Endowment, National Association of Home Builders; or to the Humane Society of Boulder Valley, Lee and Virginia Evans Cat and Kitten Adoption Center.

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