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UC Davis Centennial
100 years of service, solutions, impact
Photo: Everson Hall. (Debbie Aldridge/UC Davis archival photo)

Everson Hall, located off Hutchison and northwest of Mrak Hall, is used for administrative as well as academic offices, labs and classrooms. (Debbie Aldridge/UC Davis archival photo)

Looking Back

Namesakes: Gladys Everson

Photo: Gladys Everson

Gladys Everson

Everson Hall, originally the home economics building at UC Davis, still houses one of the former home economics department’s offspring, the Department of Textiles and Clothing. One of the few academic buildings with a homey lounge complete with a fireplace, Everson Hall is named after a soft-spoken but authoritative and devoted scientist and teacher Gladys Everson.

Fewer Americans were overweight then, but Gladys Everson raised alarms in the 1950s and ’60s that many people were exercising too little and eating too much of the wrong foods. And, the nutrition expert warned, fad diets could hurt more than help.

Teenage girls who skipped meals as a way to slim down were the poorest-fed age group in the nation, followed closely by their mothers, said Everson.

Everson, a biochemist who researched the linkages between dietary deficiencies in expectant mothers and birth defects, was a UC Davis faculty member from 1953 to 1969. Scientific articles today still cite research that Everson conducted on nutrients in eggs and the role of manganese and copper in fetal development. She also served five years as founding chair of a home economics department that had moved from the Berkeley campus and would lead to current UC Davis programs including nutrition, child development, design and textiles.

A biographical sketch published in the Journal of Nutrition in 1979, a decade after her death, described Everson as a soft-spoken but authoritative and devoted scientist and teacher who sometimes used her own money to help her department and students. “She also loved Siamese cats, classical music, paperback mysteries and gourmet food,” according to the article written by one of her former staff researchers, Ruth Shrader, and nutrition professor emeritus Fran Zeman.

If Everson was in a hurry to get back to an experiment, “she would occasionally relieve the library of a long-awaited new book without the formality of signing it out,” according to the article. But she returned the books later.

Shortly after her death in 1969 at age 60, students and faculty members at UC Davis proposed renaming the home economics building after her. “She would have been pretty proud about that,” said Larry Burdick, a retired animal technician hired by Everson to care for her guinea pigs. “She was an awfully nice person.”

Kathleen Holder is interim editor for the UC Davis Magazine.

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