The wooden clock that hangs on a wall in Win Everham’s office in Whitaker Hall was a gift from a student, a thank-you for the time and guidance the professor had provided weekly on the undergrad’s senior project. A varnished cross-section from a tree felled by Hurricane Irma in September 2017, the timepiece’s face has FGCU spelled out in fossilized shark teeth.
The ecological impact of hurricanes is one of the environmental science professor’s research specialties, but he’s also experienced the psychological impact.
“We were all in post-traumatic stress from Irma that semester,” he recalls, evoking the storm’s emotional and physical toll as well as the chaotic catching-up that occurred in its aftermath at FGCU, due to days of canceled classes and everyone struggling to get lives back on track. With students coming in back to back for advising, Everham had to try to stay on schedule.
“We had a half-hour, and the next student was waiting outside the door, but Dustin said, ‘Wait — I made something for you.’ He pulls this clock out of his bag and gives me this precious thing. Wow! I told him later that I hung it to remind me that the moments matter. Times like that — I love my job. I feel like I’m making a difference.
Edwin M. Everham III has indeed made a difference in scores of FGCU students’ lives since 1996, when he was hired as a founding faculty member to help develop curriculum for a university under construction. He’s a true FGCU Champion: a scholar-mensch who inspires students and alumni; a voice for faculty and an advocate for the natural environment; a proponent of undergraduate research opportunities, the cause that first spurred him to begin giving back to the university early on in his FGCU career.
“(Professor and The Water School Executive Director) Greg Tolley got a bunch of us together to give just a little of every paycheck to gather enough to create an endowment for travel for undergraduates to go to conferences,” he recalls. “I saw the good, and the possible multiplicative effect, of being able to say our staff and faculty give to the university. It’s walking the walk.”
In other words, giving back is an investment in the quality of an FGCU degree and the positive impact their time here has on students. That’s The FGCU Effect, and it doesn’t end when graduates leave campus. Many maintain enduring connections with professors like Everham who have influenced them. The scholarship he established to honor his son Daniel also has supported many an Eagle.
Like champions of all stripes, he’s always looking to raise the bar.
“It always seems like there’s more that should be done,” he says.
Everham already has done a lot to advance learning and knowledge around the world. The Detroit native has taught computer programming to middle schoolers, chemistry and math to high schoolers and trained trainers in the Peace Corps. He has taught in settings ranging from Waukesha, Wisconsin, to Malawi, Africa; he studied hurricane damage in Puerto Rico and threatened birds in Oregon.
At FGCU, Everham helped develop the University Colloquium, a signature program that reflects core FGCU values by connecting students with the natural world and the importance of sustainability. More recently, he has stepped into the spotlight as one of the faculty presenters in the FGCU Research Roadshow, immersing audiences in his field studies of frog populations.
Before he came to FGCU to help establish the new university, Everham was playing a similar role on a smaller scale, as a newly minted Ph.D. developing curriculum for a new college of global studies at Radford University in Virginia. Then, funding was cut and he found himself job hunting.
“How cool was it to go to a place to help design a new college and then go to a cool new place and help design a whole new university? Oh yeah sign me up for that.”
You may have heard this story before, but he loves the share it:
Came down for his interview with FGCU and decided to drive by the campus construction site first. Treeline/Ben Hill Griffin Parkway was just a dirt road. It was a hot June day, and he didn’t want to get his nice interview clothes sweaty so he arrived at the staging area in a T-shirt, shorts and flipflops. Gets out of his car, and a guy comes up in his face.
“What are you doing?” the guy asks.
“It’s OK, I’m interviewing for a job with the university. I just wanted to check out the campus,” Everham responds.
“Not dressed like that,” the guys shoots back. “This is a construction site.”
“So, before I interviewed for the job I got kicked off campus,” Everham says, laughing.
He also forgot to ask about the salary when he was offered the position. But that was less important than the job, he quickly adds.
“It’s incredibly satisfying to work with people and be able to see that you’re having a positive impact on their life. What a gift,” Everham says. “I can’t imagine thinking of my job as walking in a classroom, delivering a lecture and walking out. If you honor the gift of being a teacher, which is to change people’s lives, you’ve got to get in their life a little bit. People are so unique and different. To help someone fulfill their potential you have to know them well.”
And to know them well, you have to give them the gift of time.
ABOUT FGCU CHAMPIONS
They are the FGCU Champions — proud advocates for the university, mentors to students and alumni alike, and dedicated educators. They are tried-and-true Eagles. And they back up their loyalty to FGCU by committing their financial support as well as their passion. Follow their lead by becoming an FGCU Champion and be the difference that makes a difference. Over the next few weeks, read about other FGCU Champions at FGCU360 like Maria Roca and J. Webb Horton.