Profile: Don Evans

In appointing Don Evans to take charge of the Commerce Department, George W. Bush is tapping a man with strong ties to business, a head for making money and experience making the public and private sectors work together.

He’s also making sure his best friend and closest adviser sticks around.

Evans has a lot in common with Bush. He’s 54, and an oilman who met Bush in the 1970s in Midland, Texas. His wife even went to grade school with Bush. He’s been a close friend of the president-elect for three decades, and experts say he serves as Bush’s “sounding board” — the first point of call for ideas.

That long-term friendship resulted in his appointment as Bush’s campaign chairman, where he proved an able fund raiser, setting a record by raising $100 million for the campaign and establishing a “Pioneers” program that required a $100,000 contribution to participate.

Made Name as Oilman

Evans has proved quite able to make his own money, as well. As longtime chairman of Tom Brown, a relatively small but profitable oil firm now based in Denver, he’s watched his stake in the company swell to more than $23.8 million as Tom Brown’s stock has stretched inexorably upwards in the past year, buoyed by high oil prices.

He took his businessman’s savvy to the chairmanship of the board at the University of Texas in recent years. UT is Evans’ alma mater; he earned both an engineering degree and an MBA from the school. Appointed to the board of regents in 1995 by Bush, he was elected chairman in 1997 and again in 1999.

He supported a controversial plan to reinvest the university’s money in private investments through a nonprofit corporation, the UT Investment Management Company. Supporters say UTIMCO’s moves have ratcheted up the university’s investment performance from below to above average; opponents argue that UTIMCO invests too much money with companies run by Bush supporters and friends.

As Commerce secretary, Evans will promote American businesses and manage a wide range of agencies, including the Census Bureau, the patent and trademark offices, and the National Weather Service.

A Methodist, Evans is married to Susan Marinis Evans and has three children.