College of LAS « Illinois

Continuing a spirit of ambition

Scholarship in honor of alumna Evelyn Ebbert will help ambitious students

A scholarship has been set up in honor of late LAS alumna Evelyn Ebbert, who worked tirelessly to help other women advance their careers in the corporate world.
A scholarship has been set up in honor of late LAS alumna Evelyn Ebbert, who worked tirelessly to help other women advance their careers in the corporate world.
As a rising businesswoman in the 1970s and 1980s, Evelyn Ebbert (BS, ’63, science and letters) advocated tirelessly for other women as they worked their way up the ranks in the corporate world.

Now, her nephew, John Ebbert, has set up a scholarship through the College of LAS to honor his late aunt, who passed away earlier this year, to help junior or senior students with an entrepreneurial spirit pursue their dreams.

“My aunt was a great woman. She helped inspire many people while she was alive, and it would be great to continue that momentum that speaks to the legacy that she created,” John said.

The business field is more welcoming to women now than ever, her longtime friend Robert Finke said, which is an environment that Evelyn worked hard to achieve.

“Making resources available to women intending to pursue a business career who might not otherwise have the chance to do so is what Evelyn was about: creating opportunities for women to follow her lead and achieve success in her chosen field of business,” Finke said. “For those reasons and others, Evelyn would be grateful and proud that this scholarship honors her.”

Evelyn began her career with the United Bank of Denver before transferring to Continental Bank (now Bank of America), where she eventually was picked to lead staff in London.

“That opportunity just gave her a whole opening of life experience that was really quite remarkable for her. She talked about it until the very end,” said Deborah Ritchey, a close friend of Evelyn’s.

By 1995, she was hired as a vice president at the renamed Bank of America. The banking industry was male-dominated with few high-ranking spots for women—something Evelyn felt inspired to change.

“Evelyn was in the vanguard of successful professional women,” Finke said. “Hers was not an easy climb into the upper reaches of commercial banking, and she achieved that distinction by dint of intelligence, hard work, attention to detail, ‎and knowing her clients' needs and meeting them.”

While there were times when she was passed up for opportunities, sometimes presumably due to her gender, and while she certainly faced challenges along the way, Evelyn was resilient and kept moving forward, according to her loved ones.

Evelyn was always willing to help advance other women in their careers, Ritchey added. She recalled Evelyn mentoring a woman at the administrative level, and that woman eventually worked her way to up become the company’s vice president of technology.

“She really prided herself in helping other women succeed,” Ritchey said.

John said that while Evelyn had never explicitly asked for funds to be set up in her name, her close friends and family knew it was the right action.

“I was just in tears when John told me about this because it’s something she would have wanted," Ritchey said. "It provides them with the specialized business education she didn't really have.”

John said he grew up seeing firsthand the positive effects a University of Illinois education can have on students, so he wanted to keep the momentum by setting up the scholarship in the College of LAS.

“This was something that she not only deserved, but (it was something) she earned and this was the least we could do,” John said.

Evelyn was a strong advocate of enjoying time out of work as well. She was an avid gardener, treasurer of the Lighthouse Park District in Evanston, Illinois, a lover of the arts, and she spent much time with her friends.

“Throughout her professional and personal lives, Evelyn was a beacon of integrity and professionalism,” Finke said. “She valued her many friends highly, and she and they drew strength from one another while having good times together.”

Jessica Bursztynsky

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