From Foreign Service to International House

Recently Kendal at Oberlin resident, Gordon Evans, traveled to New York City at the invitation of Calvin Sims, current president of International House (IH). The invitation was for former president, Gordon Evans to join Calvin Sims for a conversation on the topic, “What’s Changed and What’s Endured,” at International House over the years, and to celebrate Gordon’s legacy. 

Founded in 1924, International House was established through the philanthropy of John D. Rockefeller Jr. and the Cleveland H. Dodge family, who funded the construction of the building.

Dedicated to the Future of International Leadership

Gordon Evans speaks with Calvin Sims For more than 90 years, International House has invited students from around the globe to live at the House and learn ​about​ ​the​ ​similarities​ ​that bind​ ​them, ​regardless of ​their​ ​race,​ ​religion,​ ​or​ ​country​ ​of​ ​origin.  The students grow together through an experience that prepares them to join and lead the conversations that will change the world.

The evening of the program, brought over 150 residents, trustees, staff and alumni to hear “what was” and “what is.” As to subjects, there was talk of values, leadership, challenges, renovations and legacy.

Commenting on 86-year old Evan’s responses, President Sims said, “We are so grateful for your visit, which was enlightening on so many fronts and inspiring to our entire community. Your insights, perspectives, humor and candor provide a much needed bridge between International House’s past and its future, especially as we approach our centennial.” He added, “I, like the presidents who will succeed me, stand on your shoulders and will endeavor to uphold your legacy.”

Evan’s Legacy Connects Past and Present

In 1982, Gordon resigned from a global twenty-five-year career in the Foreign Service and he and his wife, Barbara, headed to New York City, where he accepted the presidency of International House, a Rockefeller institution. Gordon and Barbara immediately became surrogate parents for 500, soon to be 750 students, from 100 countries.  The additional 250 residents were added when the Van Dusen property was purchased in1988, during Gordon’s presidency.

Gordon believes one of the most important reasons that International House has thrived is the power and commitment of its Board of Trustees, and a series of outstanding Chairmen, including Henry Kissinger and President Gerald Ford, who he served under during his tenure.  He served as International House President for eleven years.

As to how the House’s values resonate today, Gordon responds, “Today more than ever, residents of International House respect other members of the community now, as they did in the 1980s.  More importantly, alumni in over 150 countries honor “respect, empathy, and moral courage” every day in their communities. This is the powerful influence International House has on its residents.”

At the conclusion of the conversation, members of the Rockefeller and Dodge families joined Gordon and President Sims in a photograph for perpetuity.