Evelyn S. Field, a distinguished educator, women’s and civil rights activist and founding member of the Raritan Valley Community College Board of Trustees passed away Dec. 3, 2015 at the Center for Hope Hospice in Scotch Plains.
A native of Somerville, she was a graduate of its public schools where she later served as a teacher and educational media specialist. She earned a bachelor's degree from Douglass College, and was one of the first two African American women to live in the dormitories.
She held two master's degrees in education and in library service from Rutgers-the State University. She had five decades of organizational experience with women's groups, holding many offices with the Associate Alumane of Douglass College, including that of President, and was the founding coordinator of the Black Alumnae Network. The college honored her with the Corwin Award, the Vanguard 50 service award and induction into the Douglass Society for Distinguished Achievement.
She was also active with the League of Women Voters, the American Association of University Women and the Rolling Hills Girl Scout Council, which presented her its Five Worlds of Girl Scouting Women of Achievement Award.
A devotion to community college education she served a two-year term on the Board of Trustees of Trenton State College (now the College of New Jersey). Since 1966, Evelyn was a member of the Board of Trustees of Raritan Valley Community College, which named its library in her honor. Under her leadership, the college established The Paul Robeson Institute for Ethics, Leadership and Social Justice. She also received two community college trustee awards: the Northeast Region Equity Award from the Association of Community College Trustees in 2010 and the inaugural Ronald D. Winthers Community College Trustee Leadership Award from the New Jersey Council of County Colleges in 2012.
“For more than 40 years as a member of the College's Board of Trustees, Mrs. Field was a dynamic and compassionate advocate for promoting diversity and equality on campus,” said Raritan Valley Community College Board of Trustees Chair Robert P. Wise. “Her passion, persistence, and dedication were instrumental in creating a culture at RVCC that embraces diversity, promotes tolerance, and supports academic success.
“Mrs. Field has left a lasting mark on the college,” he continued. “She will long be remembered by students, faculty and staff when they visit the Evelyn S. Field Library-a tribute to her exemplary career as a librarian, teacher, and champion of open access to higher education."
Raritan Valley Community College Trustee Ray Bateman, a former Chairman of the Board was a classmate of Fields in Somerville.
"I first met Evelyn Field when we were both five years old and in the same kindergarten class in Somerville,” Bateman said. “She went on to graduate first in her class from Somerville High School and was never far from the classroom after that. Evelyn devoted her life to education and her belief in the power of education to unleash an individual's full potential. As a founding member of the Board of Trustees, Evelyn was there from the start, helping to make RVCC one of the best community colleges in New Jersey.”
Evelyn marched, protested and raised funds during the Civil Rights movement as a member of the Somerville Negro Civic Council. She held many positions locally with the National Council of Negro Women, Inc. (NCNW) and initiated educational, cultural enrichment, youth recognition and career development programs for young people.The Raritan Valley Section recognized her service and dedication in 2012.
From 1980 to 2012, she served as New Jersey State Convener and coordinated the work of NCNW within the state, concentrating on leadership and program development. At the national level, she served on the National Nominating Committee, the Strategic Planning Committee and chaired the National Recertification Committee.
Since the founding of the New Jersey Black Issues Convention in 1983, she represented NCNW on the Board of Directors. In 2011, NJ BIC honored her with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
A faithful alumna of Rutgers, she was elected as a Loyal Daughter of Rutgers by the Board in 2014; honored by the Rutgers African-American Alumni Alliance in 2011 and served as a Trustee Emerita at Rutgers-the State University.
Evelyn Field was cited numerous times for her contributions to the community: placement on the Somerset Medical Center (now RWJ) Wall of Fame in recognItion of thirty years of service on the Board of Trustees; named 1996 Citizen of the Year by the Somerset County Chamber of Commerce; recognition by the Somerset County Commission on Women and the NOW-NJ Foundation; receipt of the Jean Harris Award from Rotary International; and, presentation of the Drum Major for Community Service Award by the New Jersey Martin Luther King Commission in 2007.
Evelyn leaves her legacy with her two children Glenn W. Field and Nancy J. Field; ten grandchildren and a host of great-grandchildren. She is pre-deceased by her parents, William and Mattie Sermons; five siblings - Willa Mae Hicks, Dolores S. Nehemiah, Marjorie L. Sermons, James Charles Sermons and Clara Bell Sermons. She is survived by three sister-in-laws: Barbara Sermons, Beatrice and Ida Field; and a host of relatives.
Visitation is Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015 from noon-2 p.m. and 4-6 p.m. at the First Baptist Church, 132 W. High Street Somerville. The Homegoing Serving is Friday, Dec. 11, 2015, 11 a.m. at the church. All arrangements are coordinated by Anderson Funeral Service in New Brunswick.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to: RVCC Foundation/Paul Robeson Institute, PO Box 3300, Somerville, NJ or First Baptist Church, Somerville.