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W&L Honors Letitia Pate Whitehead Evans with Washington Award The university posthumously awarded its highest honor to Letitia Pate Whitehead Evans on May 17.

Washington-Award-1-scaled W&L Honors Letitia Pate Whitehead Evans with Washington AwardWali Bacdayan, rector of Washington and Lee University’s Board of Trustees; William C. Dudley, president of Washington and Lee University; P. Russell Hardin, president of the Lettie Pate Evans and the Lettie Pate Whitehead foundations; and E. Jenner Wood III, chairman of the board of the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation.

Washington and Lee University posthumously awarded its highest honor, the Washington Award, to Letitia Pate Whitehead Evans on Friday, May 17, during a celebration of philanthropy event commemorating the transformative impact of Evans’ philanthropy.

Jenner Wood III, chairman of the board of the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation, and P. Russell Hardin, president of the Lettie Pate Evans and the Lettie Pate Whitehead foundations, accepted the award on behalf of Evans.

The Washington Award was established in 2001 and recognizes extraordinary acts of philanthropy in support of W&L and other institutions and distinguished leadership and service to the nation.

“Mrs. Evans’ remarkable life and her relationship with W&L inspire us to continue to strive for excellence,” said Washington and Lee President William C. Dudley, who presented the award. “In presenting the Washington Award to Mrs. Evans, we recognize that her philanthropy is extraordinary by any measure, and its impact has been felt long after her passing.”

Evans was born in Thaxton, Virginia, and married Joseph Brown Whitehead, with whom she had two sons, Joseph B. Whitehead Jr. and Conkey Pate Whitehead. In 1899, Mr. Whitehead and an associate were successful in getting the exclusive contract to bottle Coca-Cola, which had previously been only a soda fountain drink. Upon her husband’s death in 1906, Evans took control of the bottling company, which had grown to 80 bottling plants. She served as chairman of the board of the Whitehead Holding Company and president of the Whitehead Realty Company. Under her leadership, the companies and the family’s wealth enjoyed rapid growth.

In 1913 she married her second husband, Colonel Arthur Kelly Evans, and moved from Atlanta to Hot Springs, Virginia. In 1934, Evans was named to the board of directors of Coca-Cola, becoming one of the first women to serve on the board of directors for any major American corporation. She held that position for almost 20 years.

Throughout her life, Evans gave generously from her family’s fortune to various charities and organizations in Georgia and Virginia, and internationally. When she died in 1953, she left her estate to the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation and directed that Washington and Lee University receive 15% of the foundation’s income annually. Cumulative distributions from the foundation make Evans the most generous benefactor in the university’s history.

A new W&L women’s giving society in Evans’ name was also announced during the ceremony. The Lettie Pate Evans Society was established to engage women in philanthropy to create a meaningful legacy at the university and to create a community of women who are engaged with W&L and its future and can serve as role models for the next generation of women.

“Lettie Pate Evans’ generosity has been transformative for W&L,” said university trustee Betsy Pakenas ’94. “Her legacy not only enabled many women to attend Washington and Lee but also set an example that can inspire women to realize their potential as philanthropic leaders.”

Previous recipients of the Washington Award are Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest ’53, ’55L, former U.S. Senator John Warner ’49, Maryellie and Rupert Johnson ’62, Roger H. Mudd ’50 and Richard L. Duchossois ’44.