FLORENCE---When 19-year-old Raven Alexis Evans of Shallotte, N.C., walks across the stage Saturday (May 10) to get her diploma, it is believed she will be the youngest graduate ever to earn a degree from Francis Marion University.
Evans, who goes by Alexis, will receive a bachelor of science degree in biology during the 10 a.m. ceremony in the Smith University Center on the FMU campus, during which 280 students will be awarded diplomas.
While there have been many 20-year-old graduates of FMU, several long-time administrators and faculty members say they don’t remember another student completing four years of degree work by age 19. Evans won’t turn 20 until October.
The average age of Evans’ classmates is 22.38 years.
It appears that Evans is the youngest student ever to be admitted to study full-time at FMU. She entered FMU in fall of 1999 as a bright-eyed 15-year-old freshman and completed her degree requirements in four years in one of the university’s most challenging majors.
Marvin Lynch, who served as admissions director from FMU’s founding in 1970 to 1995, says he can’t recall ever admitting a 15-year-old to study at FMU. Current admissions director Drucilla Russell says that Evans is the youngest student admitted as a full-time freshman during her tenure at FMU.
Evans plans to go to graduate school, hoping to earn a doctorate in microbiology. She wants a career as a bio-medical researcher and has applied to Clemson University and the Medical University of South Carolina.
The daughter of Darrell and Tina Evans of Shallotte, she is the first in her extended family to earn a college degree. She attended public schools in Brunswick County, N.C., through the eighth grade and was home-schooled by her mother for grades 9-12.
“Our whole family is really proud of Alexis,” said her mother, an insurance agent in Shallotte. “She has worked so hard. It doesn’t come easy for her, so she has to work at it.” Her father, Darrell, is a truck driver in the construction industry.
Evans came to FMU because of its academic reputation and its strong biology program. “When visiting the campus, we were impressed by the attitude of the faculty,” said Mrs. Evans.
Evans said that she was very satisfied with her experience at FMU. She didn’t even have her driver’s license when she first enrolled at FMU. Without a way to go anywhere while living on campus her freshman year, she spent a lot of time studying. Despite her age, Evans never felt out of place at FMU although her classmates were a few years older.
“I’ve enjoyed my time here,” she said. “It’s been challenging, but fun. The professors have been really helpful to me.”
She praised current biology professors Vernon Bauer, Carol Sanderson and Gerald Long and former faculty member Robert Sawyer with having a great impact on her studies at FMU.
Bauer, a member of the FMU faculty for the last three years, taught Evans in three classes--embryology, genetics and an independent research project in which she conducted experiments involving mutant strains of yeast.
Bauer said that Evans is “a competent and highly motivated student who takes her education seriously.” He also said Evans “is very organized and budgets her time well. She’s a fast learner and understands instructions well.”
At FMU, Evans was active in the biology honorary society, Beta Beta Beta, serving as historian and as vice president. She was recipient of three merit scholarships while attending FMU—the Alumni Association Scholarship, the Catherine Dozier Scholarship and the Temple Beth Israel Scholarship.
In her spare time, Evans enjoys showing horses, something she has been doing since age eight. Over the last 11 years, she has won numerous awards showing Tennessee walking horses throughout the Southeast. In 1996, her mount won the “Horse of the Year” award from the Sandlapper Horse Show Association.
#162 / 5-8-03