by Kathryn Stroppel
The self-proclaimed Imelda Marcos of cowboy boots, Associate Professor Maria Evans, M.D., has worn purple cowboy boots at KCOM commencement since her first in 2001. At last count, her collection contains 15 pairs of boots, including a complete set of colors for the liturgical church calendar – blue, white, purple, red, and green – in exotic leathers such as snakeskin, alligator, and ostrich. She also owns an honest-to-gosh pair of A.T. Still-inspired muleskinner boots.
She claims no favorite, but cherishes a pair of leather Justin Ropers given to her by her grandfather, who bought her first pair when she was a toddler picking out her first pair of shoes. The most well-known, however, are the purple commencement boots – snakeskin size 9s bought on eBay for $16 – which have become commencement tradition.
Dr. Evans, who has hooded students at KCOM for six years and who herself graduated in 1991 from the University of Missouri, has a special fondness for the important day.
“Especially on the years I have been asked to hood, I really love the looks on their faces just before ‘the big moment,’” she says. “Some beam. Some cry. Some are very, very serious. But I dearly love sharing their moment – the moment they truly enter ‘the priesthood of medicine.’ I think of this long gray line of physicians stretching back thousands of years and stretching forward into infinity – that we are bonded in a single instance in time to a timeless event. It is as close to immortal as I get to feel, to hand this moment to them and share it as a sidelight. I also dearly love getting to shake their hand and be the first person to call them doctor. I always say, ‘Congratulations, doctor.’”
Dr. Evans splits her time teaching a second-year pathology course and serving as medical director of Boyce & Bynum/Chariton Labs, which she runs with a partner. She served as a student-elected marshal at this year’s commencement along with Neil J. Sargentini, Ph.D., chair and associate professor of microbiology. William L. Sexton, Ph.D., chair of biomedical sciences, served as biomedical sciences marshal.