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NMSU to honor writer Max Evans at commencement for his life?s work

Max Evans? body of work reflects his love of New Mexico and the Western way of life.

Man signing a book
Writer Max Evans signs his latest book, ?Goin? Crazy with Sam Peckinpah and All Our Friends.? New Mexico State University is honoring Max Evans with an honorary doctorate during the fall 2014 commencement ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 13, at the Pan American Center. (NMSU photo by Jane Moorman)

New Mexico State University will recognize Evans? contribution to New Mexico with an honorary doctorate during the fall 2014 commencement ceremony Saturday, Dec. 13.

Evans has spent his career promoting the Western way of life through his novels and paintings, and helping form the New Mexico Film Commission and the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum.

He will receive an honorary Doctorate of Letters during the ceremony, which will begin at 10 a.m. at the Pan American Center.

?Max Evans is a classic New Mexican,? NMSU President Garrey Carruthers said. "He?s been a cowboy, a painter and a writer. He?s really done everything and he?s one of the finest storytellers I?ve met.?

The author of 30 novels, including ?The Rounders? and ?The Hi Lo Country,? which were adapted into movies, has received, among other honors, the Western Writers of America Owen Wister Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as the organization?s Spur Award for his creative works depicting the cowboy way of life in the 1940s and 1950s.

Other honors bestowed on Evans include three Western Heritage Awards from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, and the Governor?s Award for Excellence in the Arts through the New Mexico Arts Commission.

?I?ve been called a Western writer, however I see myself as a writer of the West,? said 90-year-old Evans. ?I write about the period before World War II. I thought that was a time in history that people wouldn?t be writing about.?

The Texas-born Evans has spent the majority of his life in New Mexico in Lea and Union counties, including the towns of Lamy, Des Moines, Hillsboro and Taos. He and his wife, Pat, have lived in Albuquerque since 1968. They have twin daughters, Charlotte and Sheryl.

Evans has turned his personal experiences as a cowboy and rancher; prospector and miner; and film promoter into material for his novels and paintings, which have been created over the past 60 years.

?As a student at Andrews High School in Texas, I learned the importance of encouraging individuals to accomplish their dream when a teacher challenged me to read all of the classics of the world,? Evans said.

That challenge gave Evans the foundation for his chosen work of writing.

With the establishment of the Pat and Max Evans Rounders Endowed Scholarship at NMSU, Evans hopes the royalties from his novels will help encourage rural undergraduate students, for many years to come, to obtain degrees in animal science or media communications. The first scholarship will be awarded Spring 2015.

?The two projects I am most proud of are the creation of the New Mexico Film Commission and the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces,? he said.

Evans? novel ?The Rounders? set the stage for him to enter the world of Hollywood and the film industry when it was adapted into a movie in 1965 with Burt Kennedy directing and starring Henry Fonda and Glenn Ford.

?From my experiences while promoting story options to Hollywood producers, I realized the potential economic benefit of the film industry for the state of New Mexico,? he said. ?I would take photos of various potential film locations to producers to show them the natural vistas that could be in their films.?

Through the newly formed film commission?s efforts, movies filmed in New Mexico increased from one or two a year to 14 in 1970. During the ?70s, 98 movies were filmed in New Mexico.

?The creation of the 47-acre New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum fulfilled my desire to preserve the history of rural America, and a way of life that established my value system. I would like the rest of the world to see and learn what America is made of and how it started,? he said of the museum, where among last year?s visitors, 18 foreign countries were represented.

The influence of Evans? work continues annually, as the Rounders Award honors those who live, promote and articulate the Western way of life. The award, named for Evans? popular Western novel, was created in 1990 by former New Mexico Agriculture Secretary Frank DuBois and then-Gov. Garrey Carruthers.

?It is important for us to recognize and encourage the many wonderful artists in our state,? Evans said. ?Writers, historians and artists have been recognized as ?Rounders? for their part in contributing to and securing the rich culture of the West.?