The Right Stuff Award: Daniel J. Evans


“The Right Stuff ” is a term popularized by author Tom Wolfe in his rollicking, uproarious, roller-coaster-ride of a book by the same name: a book about the seven original astronauts selected for Project Mercury.

They were men who had what it took to climb into a massive rocket loaded with explosive fuel and blast off into space. They had the Right Stuff.

In that spirit I’ll present awards from time to time to people with the Right Stuff. People who take on a challenge and triumph over obstacles. Or who suddenly, unexpectedly find themselves in a challenging situation and rise to the occasion quietly and competently. Those who demonstrate what a single person can accomplish if she or he has the Right Stuff.

And the third Right Stuff Award goes to Daniel J. Evans

Maybe it’s because of the bitter, partisan fighting in Congress lately or because I’ll soon be leaving Washington State, but lately I’ve been thinking about one of the state’s most respected and liked people, Daniel J. Evans, dubbed “Mr. Washington” by the University of Washington (UW) alumni magazine.

Dan Evans has served as a representative in the state House of Representatives


as President of Evergreen State College

    and three terms

as Governor of Washington state


as U.S. Senator after the death of Senator Henry (Scoop) Jackson in 1983


on the University of Washington (UW) Board of Regents


currently, as Chairman of the UW Foundation Board.

During his many years of public service, Dan Evans has been known and admired for his effectiveness, practicality, reasonableness, integrity, and just plain decency. According to his press secretary, Dan Evans often said,

“There aren’t Republican solutions or Democratic solutions. There are the best solutions. That’s what I’m looking for.”

But his five years in the U.S. Senate left him disillusioned and disheartened. And as his term drew to a close, he chose not to run again. He explained his decision in the article, “Why I’m Quitting the Senate,” published in the New York Times Magazine in April, 1988. He wrote

I have lived through five years of bickering and protracted paralysis. Five years is enough.

But there’s more! In November, 2006, Dan Evans did something which showed that he had The Right Stuff in abundance. He speed-walked the Seattle Half Marathon to raise money for a new scholarship program at the UW.

To kick things off, he sent out an email marked Urgent to over 35,000 recipients. It said,

I’ve decided to run again….Please contribute to my campaign!

He then stated his goals in terms of the money to be raised and the time to cross the finish line.

Daniel J. Evans, then aged 81 and walking with two knee replacements, met both his goals.

He raised more money than his target of $100,000–0f which the UW would match $50,000–and finished in less time than his target of 3 hours and 40 minutes.

Photo By George Crouter/The Denver Post via Getty Images

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  • Belinda Munoz 01/04/2010, 11:12 am

    Politics aside, this man deserves the Right Stuff award! There are people people less than half his age who would never dream of doing what he did at his age, or would never get behind an honorable cause. To be charitable and have fun while doing it — we should all be so lucky. Thanks for letting us know aobut this remarkable act of courage and determination.