Dr. Dwight L. Evans died peacefully at his home in Newtown Square on Saturday, November 19, 2022, at the age of 75.
A model of selflessness and generosity, Dwight devoted his life to aiding others. Professionally, his lifelong commitment is characterized by his contributions to the field of Psychiatry, where his visionary leadership and extraordinary impact will continue to reverberate.
Born in Lancaster, PA to Benjamin and Kathryn Landis Evans, Dwight grew up the only child in an adoring home of four generations. As a boy, he was a fixture in the aisles of Lancaster’s bustling Central Market where his father owned and operated a butcher stand. Dwight attended J.P. McCaskey High School and spent his summers at his grandfather’s cottage in Mt Gretna. He received his BS in Biology at Elizabethtown College, an MS in Psychology from Bucknell University and his medical degree from Temple University.
After successfully completing his Psychiatry residency at the University of North Carolina Memorial Hospital and a fellowship as a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar, Dwight was appointed to the faculty of the UNC Department of Psychiatry from 1980-1992. He completed his psychoanalytic training at the University of North Carolina-Duke University Psychoanalytic Training Program in 1983.
Dwight served as Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Florida from 1992-1997 where he also served as Director of the Psychoneuroimmunology Laboratory. He subsequently served as the Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the Ruth Meltzer Professor of Psychiatry from 1997-2016. In 2015, he was named the inaugural Roehrhoff Rickels Professor of Psychiatry. Dwight was one of the longest serving Department Chairs in the history of Penn Medicine.
In addition to serving as Department Chair, Dwight oversaw the establishment of Penn Behavioral Health and served in key leadership roles such as Psychiatrist-in-Chief of the University of Pennsylvania Health System, Director of the Penn Comprehensive Depression Center, and Co-Director of the Penn Medicine Neuroscience Center.
An outstanding investigator and clinician, his pioneering translational research on the neurobiology of stress and depression was continuously funded by the NIH for more than 30 years. Dwight led the creation of the NIH funded Penn Mental Health AIDS Research Center and served as its director. Among numerous awards and accolades, he received the Award for Research in Psychiatry from the American Psychiatric Association and the William C. Menninger Memorial Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Science of Mental Health from the American College of Physicians.
Dwight served as President of the American College of Psychiatrists and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). He served on numerous boards, councils, and committees, including AFSP, the National Network of Depression Centers, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) Foundation, and the APA Council on Research. A prolific author, Dwight published hundreds of academic papers, served on the editorial boards for countless journals, and wrote and edited numerous books, including a clinician’s guide to treating and preventing adolescent mental health disorders, awarded Best Book in Clinical Medicine by the Association of American Publishers.
Despite the enormity of his professional contributions, Dwight will be remembered best for the personal impact he had on so many. His generosity and compassion toward others were boundless and constant throughout his life. Never seeking praise, attention, or recognition, Dwight would stop at nothing to help those around him, be it a loved one, a colleague, friend, or stranger.
No one was more aware of their place in his life than his family. Despite a career marked by many accomplishments, Dwight was above all else, a loving husband, father, and grandfather. His family was the center of his world and he never hesitated to show them just how much they meant to him. For his grandchildren, who affectionately referred to him as “Doc,” they will always remember the special trips and experiences they shared, the silly jokes he made, and the toy car or gift he always seemed to carry in his pocket.
Dwight was the ultimate teacher. Through his example, he taught his children and grandchildren many things, including, the meaning of selflessness, the importance of thoughtful gestures of gratitude, to appreciate the simple things in life, the value of a good ‘dad joke’ and that family comes first. He passed on his love of fishing, sports, ‘oldies’ music, animals and nature.
Dwight will be remembered as a devoted husband, father and grandfather, a superb physician, a transformational leader, and a dedicated colleague and friend, who exemplified remarkable strength, eminence, humility and kindness. He has left a lasting legacy and will be greatly missed.
Dwight is survived by his wife, Janet (Strickler) Evans of 52 years and his beloved children, Liz Evans, Meredith Roche, Ben Evans, and Chris Evans, son in laws, Hadi Halazun and Michael Roche, daughter in law, Francie Wheeler Evans and his five grandchildren, Tripp, Will and Chole Roche, Zayn Halazun, and Wilder Evans.
In lieu of flowers, the family hopes you will consider making a donation to the Dwight L. Evans Memorial Fund to support his passion for psychiatric residency training at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. Dwight was devoted to educating and training the next generation of psychiatrists. A gift to the fund will not only honor him, but also ensure that his legacy lives on in perpetuity at Penn Medicine and beyond.
Gifts can be made securely online at www.pennmedicine.org/dwightevansmemorialfund, noting “in memory of Dwight Evans”. Checks can be made payable to “Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania, c/o Dept. of Psychiatry, 3535 Market Street, Suite 750, Philadelphia, PA 19104.” Please also note “in memory of Dwight Evans” in the memo line.