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P R O F E S S O R S

E M E R I T I :

Richard Evans

SPOTLIGHT ON by Lisa K. Merkl (’92, M.A. ’97)

H

e developed the strategy behind the “Just Say No” antidrug campaign, created the word “workaholic,” interviewed Carl Jung and appeared regularly on the Johnny Carson show. Recently bestowed the title of Professor Emeritus, Richard I. Evans has been with UH for six decades and shows no signs of slowing down in his new role. Recognized as one of the earliest social psychologists in the field of behavioral medicine, Evans joined UH’s psychology faculty after receiving his Ph.D. in 1950 from Michigan State. He developed the university’s social psychology program and ascended the ranks to become a Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished University Professor. Before completing his undergraduate degree, Evans enlisted in the U.S. Army, was assigned to General George S. Patton’s Third Army and was wounded in the Battle of the Richard Evans Bulge, earning a Purple Heart. While recovering, Evans decided and his colleagues gained insight as to how to pursue psychology as a result peer pressure influenced them. Ultimately, of encouragement from those who cared for him they came up with ways to “inoculate” these in the hospital. youngsters with skills to resist certain pressures. He authored a U.S. Surgeon General’s Report Evans found a home in social psychology and on Smoking in Children and Adolescents, and developed the social inoculation prevention what began as research targeting tobacco use model that addressed the problems of why expanded to address other addictions such as children and adolescents began smoking, drug abuse, alcoholism and gambling. despite obvious dangers to their health. After conducting interviews with hundreds The initial research was done in collaboration of junior high school students and studying with renowned heart surgeon Dr. Michael E. how they resisted pressures to smoke, he

28 UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON ma gazine | N o v e m b e r 2011

DeBakey and Baylor College of Medicine. Funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Evans developed several strategies to get the message through to young people, with just one of the various resistance skills being “just say no.” He never imagined that this one phrase would become a powerful campaign promoted by First Lady Nancy Reagan to discourage children from using recreational drugs. Another “household word” that has been attributed to Evans is the use of the term “workaholic,” which he serendipitously coined in the 1960s. “While employed as a consultant with Esso, now ExxonMobil, I’d been asked to discuss the problem of how to handle employees who had a tendency of overworking to the point of becoming less productive,” Evans said. “I explained that it was a phenomenon similar to other addictions of excess, such as alcoholism, and basically made an off-the-cuff comment that perhaps we should refer to those employees as ‘workaholics.’ My comments were included in the company’s magazine, which was widely distributed through the world, and a notable syndicated columnist – James Kilpatrick – picked up on it. He included the word in one of his columns, describing it as a useful new term.”


University of Houston Magazine - Fall 2011