The lives of Larry Harvill and Evelyn Ifft had already crossed paths before they even knew each other. After earning a Ph.D. at University of California, Los Angeles, Harvill selected a teaching position at the University of Redlands, where Evelyn Ifft’s late husband, a California Institute of Technology Ph.D., Jim Ifft, was also teaching. Over the years, the two faculty members made lasting marks on the science division.
“I was delighted to come to California,” recalls Evelyn Ifft, a native of eastern Pennsylvania who attended California State University, Los Angeles to study art education. Harvill always knew he wanted to be an engineer but also was inspired to teach. From the beginning, both recall University of Redlands faculty members’ closeness at mountain retreats and holiday parties. “We were a tightknit community,” shares Harvill.
But in spring 1982, tragedy struck the Redlands campus when Jim Ifft died suddenly from a heart attack at age 46. An avid fly-fisher and wine aficionado, he had been a strong proponent of student research. “He was so proud of that,” recalls Harvill. A year later, colleagues, former students, and friends created the Ifft Endowed Research Fund. “It was amazing to see the outpouring of support,” Evelyn Ifft says. Her three children had been receiving tuition exchange benefits, which the Trustees graciously extended after her husband’s death.
Years later, Ifft and Harvill found their friendship blooming into romance. “We knew each other so well, as did our children, and we had a lot in common,” notes Harvill. Shortly after they wed, the couple was driving through Pasadena on California Street, and Harvill pointed out the house where he roomed as a Cal Tech undergraduate student. Much to Ifft’s surprise, it was the very same residence that she and Jim housesat decades before.
In 1988, U of R President James Appleton appointed Harvill as director of the science division, and he continued to make the student research program a priority. “It’s an effective way for students to further their understanding of science by applying their classroom learning in a real setting,” Harvill says. He later served as faculty liaison during the construction of the Stauffer Complex for Science, Mathematics, and Environmental Studies, a project he recalls with pride.
When Harvill and Ifft established a charitable gift annuity earlier this year, they were certain about what they wanted it to support. “The student research program is something we both believe in,” reflects Ifft. “It is a way to honor Jim’s memory and legacy, and that is important to me.” The couple often run into former students, who are quick to share their gratitude. “It’s a realization that grows on them after they leave,” says Harvill. “They realize what they learned here, and that their education has been worthwhile.”
For information on how you can support student science research as Larry Harvill and Evelyn Ifft have, please contact Patience Boudreaux, philanthropic advisor, at 909-748-8354 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Laura Gallardo ’03