Teacher, law student, viticulturist and lifelong learner Evelyn Allen, who began taking classes at Napa Valley College (NVC) in 1944 and continued nearly until she passed away on May 8 at the age of 94, has left her estate to the Napa Valley College Foundation. The announcement was made by Napa Valley College Foundation Executive Director Jessica Thomason.
In a revocable trust prepared in 2018, Allen directed that the Foundation would receive her estate, including her 13-acre property, which includes her home, a rental home and eight acres of cabernet grapes, which are currently being sold to Caymus, and a separate rental property in Alta Heights. In the trust document, she specifically asked that her gift be used to support the College’s Agriculture and Adaptive Physical Education programs.
“We are greatly saddened by Evelyn’s passing,” said Thomason. “She was well-known and loved as a student and has been actively supporting the College through making gifts to the foundation for several years. Evelyn referred to the College and its students as her family.
“We are overwhelmed to hear that she left her estate to the College, which will be the largest gift ever received by the Napa Valley College Foundation. We are honored to be able to steward this significant gift to fulfill Evelyn’s wishes, which will live on in the lives of students and the community for years to come.”
To further cement Evelyn’s legacy at NVC, the Foundation has also established the Evelyn Allen Women’s Leadership Fund, a group of key women leaders in the Valley who will provide a voice within the College to cultivate the next generation of women leaders.
Born in 1926 in College City near Colusa, CA, Evelyn grew up in a humble home, her contractor father and seamstress mother instilling in her a strong work ethic and a love of education. She is described by those who knew her as an exceptionally independent woman with an insatiable desire for knowledge and a fearless approach to life.
She graduated from Napa High School in 1944 and enrolled at what was then called Napa Junior College, located on the high school campus at Jefferson Street and Lincoln Avenue. She took all the required classes, as well as courses in journalism, which she leveraged into an internship with the “Napa Valley Register,” writing articles about the College. In support of the war effort, Evelyn also held a job at the City Engineer’s Office while attending Napa Junior College.
She transferred to UC Berkeley where she got the first of her many degrees, in Economics, in 1948. She obtained an “emergency” teaching credential and a one-year position at Yountville Elementary School, kicking off her 25-year teaching career. Evelyn earned her Master’s degree in Teaching from the University of Colorado in Boulder, and traveled the world after winning two Fulbright Teaching Scholarships to teach and study in Sheffield, England and Taiwan.
Never one to be idle, Allen decided to attend John F. Kennedy University in Orinda and obtained a law degree in four years. Although she never practiced law, she worked for a lawyer in San Francisco for a few years before coming back to Napa to take care of her father when her mother died in the 70s.
After moving in with her father on his 13.5-acre property on Silverado Trail, Allen began to explore the possibility of planting wine grapes on the property, which was planted at that time in prunes. To prepare for that transition, she turned to her alma mater, Napa Valley College.
Evelyn enrolled in every winemaking and viticulture class that the college had to offer, and by 2004, she had more than eight acres of prime Napa Valley cabernet grapes growing on the land. Dr. Steven Krebs, the head of the VWT (Viticulture Winery & Technology) program at that time, recalls Evelyn very fondly. “Before virtually every class session, she arrived early at my office with a list of questions,” he says. “She also frequently phoned with questions, often left on my voice mail. She actively participated in class discussions and was well-loved by her fellow students.”
Sylvia Valdez, a fellow viticulture student and longtime friend of Evelyn, remembers Evelyn finding premium wineries to buy her grapes by going through the phone book and calling them. “She was enterprising!” Valdez says.
Evelyn’s distant cousin Pam Elder, her last living relative in the Bay Area, said that she found Evelyn to be “intellectually curious, fiercely independent and open to innovation.”
“She was always forward thinking,” Elder says, offering evidence of the fact that when Evelyn was in her 80s, she planted a second vineyard and had solar panels installed to save energy. In her 90s, she turned a swale on her land into a small pond, hoping to help replenish the groundwater table. “I am so pleased that she had the foresight and generosity to create a legacy that will benefit students at the college from which she began her educational journey.”
In order to fulfill Evelyn’s wishes, the Foundation plans to sell the properties, the value of which has not yet been determined.
“She lived a full and admirable life, always curious, always growing,” said Malcolm de Sieyes, president, foundation board of directors. “She was an incredible woman, a lifelong learner, and an inspiring woman. Her passing saddens us, but Evelyn’s memory will live on through her amazing gift in perpetuity through her love of the College and incredible generosity. The Viticulture Winery & Technology and Adaptive Physical Education programs will benefit in countless ways, for years to come.”
About Napa Valley College Foundation
The Napa Valley College Foundation was founded in 1968 to increase community awareness and provide financial support for the Napa Valley College and its students. The Foundation engages the Napa Valley community by cultivating relationships, leveraging partnerships, and inviting generosity for Napa Valley College. The Foundation’s Board of Directors includes professional, business, and philanthropic leaders who have a dedicated interest in the College and its students. The Napa Valley College Foundation is an independent California nonprofit, public benefit corporation and is tax-exempt as provided by IRS Sec. 501 (c)3. Federal ID# 23-7003565. Learn more at https://www.napavalley.edu/AboutNVC/Foundation