A stutter could have held Mark Evans back. But Evans, a Salisbury native, wasn’t going to let that happen.
“If someone tells me I can’t do something, that motivates me even more to do it,” he said. “Wor-Wic gave me the keys to my future. It started the fire, and it carried on.”
The burning desire for knowledge took Evans not only through Wor-Wic Community College, but all the way to a doctorate degree.
Evans said he came from a family with no college background, so he was a first-generation college student; in addition to his stutter, he had dyscalculia, a learning disability in math. He overcame it through grit and determination. He left Wicomico High School before graduating, but earned a Maryland High School diploma through GED testing, then took developmental classes at Wor-Wic and progressed on to earn an associate degree in computer programming.
“I spent four years at Wor-Wic,” he said, “but then I finished at Gallaudet in only two years.”
Evans had learned American Sign Language (ASL) at Wor-Wic, and discovered that the language freed him from his stutter. For a bachelor’s degree, he transferred to Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.
Gallaudet provides bilingual ASL and English instruction and was founded to provide instruction to deaf, hard-of-hearing and deaf-blind people, but it is open to all. Evans thrived there with skills he had learned at Wor-Wic.
“I was welcomed like a long-lost cousin,” he said. He graduated in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems, and went on to earn a master’s degree from Salisbury University and a doctorate from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
“He had to learn how to learn, and once he did, he took off,” said Deborah D. Fries, a longtime mathematics instructor at Wor-Wic. “The way he was able to succeed is motivational.” Fries often asks Evans to speak to her classes to let them know just how far they can go.
“I tell students to stick with it,” he said. Evans notes that he never missed a class, and tells students that being determined is important. “I also remind them to respect themselves, because no one else can respect you if you don’t respect yourself,” he said.
Students have a lot of questions about his job: Evans now works for the U.S. Department of Defense as a network engineer at the Pentagon. He commutes from the Eastern Shore, where he lives with his wife, whom he met at Wor-Wic while he served as an ASL interpreter. She also went on to graduate from Gallaudet and works as a graphic designer.
“I know no one expected this kind of success from me,” Evans said. “But it’s all right, because I expected it of myself.”
Photo: Mark Evans, left, and Deborah D. Fries, part-time mathematics instructor, catch up on Evans’ life after graduation on the Wor-Wic Community College campus.
Gwenn Garland | Writer/Photographer | Wor-Wic Community College