U psychology professor, Wellstone aide among victims

P By Elizabeth Dunbar and Brad Unangst

passionate, outspoken, energetic and a protector of underprivileged children.

That’s how friends and family described University educational psychology professor Mary McEvoy, who died Friday in a small plane crash outside Eveleth, Minn., that also killed Sen. Paul Wellstone and six others.

Interim University President Robert Bruininks, who was a member of the educational psychology department when McEvoy was recruited to the University, said he was saddened by the lost of his close friend.

“To know Mary was to love her and embrace her as a sister,” Bruininks said. “She is someone I will deeply miss.”

McEvoy served as chairwoman of the department for three years after coming to the University in 1990 as a special education professor.

While at the University, McEvoy’s work included promoting the integration of disabled children into regular classrooms, social skills training for autistic children and research on the effects of cocaine on unborn children.

“She was a very visible presence in the college. She was very passionate and very intense about early childhood development,” said Peggy Rader, a College of Education media relations coordinator.

McEvoy worked as director of the Center for Early Education and Development from 1993 to 1999 where she implemented teacher training programs for early childhood development.

The center, a national organization, was started at the University in 1973 and is responsible for promoting early childhood development issues. Her latest work involved early childhood-literacy programs.

“Her work speaks for itself. She was a very unique person,” said David Johnson, Institute on Community Integration director.

McEvoy worked as the Early Intervention Services coordinator at the institute.

Colleagues said her passion, besides being an advocate for children at risk, was to influence public policy.

McEvoy, who was on leave from the University this fall semester, was working as a staffer on her long-time friend Sen. Paul Wellstone’s re-election campaign. She was also the associate chairwoman of the Minnesota DFL Party.

McEvoy became involved with the DFL Party during Wellstone’s first campaign for senate in 1990. She was a delegate at the 2000 Democratic National Convention.

She was planning to return to the University in January to serve as the Faculty Consultative Committee’s faculty legislative liaison.

Scott McConnell, who worked with McEvoy at the center, said no one will be able to replace the influence she had both at the University and in politics.

“She was a researcher, but she was the happiest talking with politicians,” McConnell said.

McEvoy was born in Knoxville, Tenn., on March 13, 1953. She received a bachelor’s degree in special education in 1974, a master’s degree in child and family studies in 1980 and a doctorate in child and family studies in 1984 – all from the University of Tennessee. McEvoy has three school-age children and her husband is a school teacher in St. Paul, Minn.

Friends said they weren’t surprised to learn McEvoy was on Wellstone’s plane, knowing her passions aligned with the senator’s.

“She was like Paul Wellstone in a way. She was just a vivacious, bubbly person,” said Matt Ziegler, project coordinator at the institute. “You just had to like her.”

Elizabeth Dunbar welcomes comments at [email protected]

Brad Unangst welcomes comments at [email protected]