|Evanel Renfrow, 1926 Grinnellian|
To judge from the high school yearbook summary of her activities, Evanel's scholastic achievement did not come at the cost of extra-curriculars. Like her oldest sister, Helen, Evanel was active in YWCA, but, in addition, she participated in numerous sports: basketball for three years, soccer for one, tennis for one, and something called "gym exhibition" (presumably a kind of gymnastics) all four years. She was also active in "Declam," a kind of public speaking activity, and did very well, once reaching the semi-finals of the annual competition. To imagine a personality of someone known only through historical evidence is hazardous, but the record indicates that Evanel did not shrink from encountering or even competing against white classmates. The saying attributed to her in her senior yearbook—"I want what I want when I want it"—seems to confirm her confident approach to life.
In an earlier post I noted that around 1925 the Renfrow family confronted a difficult situation: Helen was two years into her education at Fisk University; Alice had graduated from high school but had not started college; Rudolph, the third-oldest of the children, was enrolled in the academy of the Hampton Institute; and of course Evanel was about to graduate from Grinnell High School. It appears that, in order to balance these various demands on the family budget, the Renfrows arranged for Alice and Helen to mark time so that Evanel could begin college immediately after high school. Records confirm that autumn 1926 Evanel began a program in home economics at what was then called Iowa State College of Agricultural and Mechanical Arts (today's Iowa State University). Whether finances (oldest sister Helen began at Iowa in the 1927-28 academic year) or some other issue was to blame, Evanel evidently interrupted her study in Ames after the first year, and only in the 1929-30 academic year did she resume her education at the University of Iowa from which she received a B. S. in 1930 and where she continued in graduate study, receiving an M. S. in 1935.
|Home Economics Club, 1936 University of Iowa Hawkeye, p. 138.|
Evanel's master's thesis ("The adequacy and cost of dormitory diets in the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College for colored students") indicates that at some point before 1935 Evanel was living in Tallahassee where presumably she collected the data for her thesis. But I have so far not been able to confirm any position she might have held at Florida A & M.
By 1939 Evanel had won appointment at Alabama's Tuskegee Institute where the 1939-40 catalog lists her as Head, Department of Foods and Nutrition. In addition to citing her degrees from the University of Iowa, the catalog also reports that she had received a "Graduate Dietician's Diploma" from the Freedmen's Hospital in Washington, D. C. To judge from a much later article about Evanel, at Freedmen's she was part of a special student dieticians training course founded by Frances McShann in the 1920s. Consequently, by the time she arrived at Tuskegee, she had completed some of the best training then available in dietetics and nutrition studies.
|Freedmen's Hospital, Washington, D. C. (ca. 1910)|
After Tuskegee and her Chicago fellowship her name disappears from the records for a time. She next appears in 1945 in the catalog of Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, another of the country's historically black universities. A September, 1945 article in the university newspaper, The Lincoln Clarion, noted that "Miss Evanel Renfrow, assistant professor of foods and nutrition," would be joining the faculty. In addition to listing her degrees from Iowa, and her service at Freedmen's hospital, Tuskegee Institute, and Florida A & M, the newspaper also credited her with stays at "Michigan State College, University of Chicago, and the Loop Center YWCA, Chicago." I was able to find nothing about what positions she might have held at Michigan State and the Chicago Y, but these posts might well account for the three years between her fellowship at Chicago and her arrival at Lincoln in 1945.
|Lincoln Institute (University), ca. 1920|
The successful years at Lincoln led her to Savannah State College (today's Savannah State University), where in 1949 she was appointed associate professor and Director of the Division of Home Economics. Over the course of the next twenty-seven years Evanel led a very busy and productive life of teaching and scholarship. The periodic Faculty Research Edition of the Savannah State College Bulletin published several of her articles, including the following:
-"Pilot Study on a Non-Credit Adult Education Program in Chatham County" (1958)
-"A Review of Pertinent Literature on the Nutritional Status of the Negro Child, 1919-1954" (1963)
-"Changes in Social Welfare of Caribbean Families" (1961).
|Prof. Evanel Terrell (far right) in class (photo courtesy Asa H. Gordon Library Special Collections, Savannah State University)|
Throughout her many years at Savannah State, Evanel continued to provide expert consultations and speak before various professional groups. Soon after she arrived in Savannah, for example, she traveled to Tallahassee to advise the Foods and Nutrition Workshop at Florida A & M where she had done some of her original research. Later, as an "FDA school lunch specialist for Negro schools" she was consultant to a three-week conference sponsored by the Florida Department of Education and Florida A &M University "for in-service teacher training of Negro home economics teachers." She performed similar short-term consultations throughout her years at Savannah State.
In 1976, fifty years after her graduation from Grinnell High School, Evanel retired from her post at Savannah State University. Apparently she remained active in her church, First Congregational of Savannah, where she had been a long-time member, deaconess, and former president of the women's fellowship.
|1976 Tiger, yearbook of Savannah State University|
|Pittsburgh Courier, January 26, 1952.|
|Gravestones for Carl and Evanel Terrell, Beaufort National Cemetery, Beaufort, SC|
So this particular story, most of which was played out far from the Renfrow family home in Grinnell, came to an end. But all these years Evanel had enjoyed and depended upon her family's encouragement and wisdom. Not only had she pursued and succeeded at formal education, but also, far from the garden her mother had tended on First Avenue in Grinnell, Evanel Renfrow Terrell multiplied and shared her mother's interest in nutrition and good eating. Through numerous consultations, publications, and years of teaching Evanel had helped create a healthier generation of African Americans. And, through the scholarship that carries her name, Evanel Renfrow Terrell, like her sister Helen, continues to influence young people for the better.