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July 19, 2022

SVSU grad receives Pat Tillman Award for Service

ESPN to present the award during the 2022 ESPY Awards

In recognition of her connection to sports and service to others, a Saginaw Valley State University graduate will be honored with the Pat Tillman Award for Service at the 2022 ESPYS on Wednesday, July 20.

Army Command Sergeant Major (retired) Gretchen Evans earned a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from SVSU in 2013, following a distinguished 27-year career with the U.S. Army. After a life-altering injury, sustained in Afghanistan, ended her military career, Evans overcame severe depression and PTSD to become a nationally recognized motivational speaker, author and athlete.

Evans learned of SVSU when her husband, Robert Evans, became chief chaplain of the Aleda E. Lutz VA Medical Center in Saginaw. It was one of the universities she was considering continuing her education. After touring campus and experiencing the caring, supportive environment, Evans determined SVSU was the place for her.

“Saginaw Valley State University was a perfect place for me to finish my education,” Evans said. “I was an adult learner, 50 years old and loved being on a University campus. I enjoyed the camaraderie with the other Veteran students and the college-aged students as well.” 

While a student at SVSU, Evans worked with former Career Services Director Mike Major and now-retired Dean of Students Merry Jo Brandimore to provide services to other military-affiliated students. Their work laid the foundation for today’s Military Student Affairs Office, which is dedicated to the needs and concerns of all military-affiliated students. SVSU is regularly recognized by veterans organizations as a “Best for Vets” college and “Military Friendly School.”

In 2019, Evans assembled Team UNBROKEN to compete in the “World’s Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji,” a non-stop, multi-day, 417-mile race across rugged terrain complete with mountains, jungles, rivers and ocean. The team includes veterans who, like Evans, had sustained or experienced life-altering injuries, illnesses or traumas.

A highly decorated veteran, Evans now serves as a spokesperson for the Dogtopia Foundation which provides funds to place service dogs with veterans and first responders. Evans published her first book, “Leading from the Front,” in 2018 and is working on a second book.

Evans has been inducted into the U.S. Army Women’s Hall of Fame and the U.S. Veteran Hall of Fame. She received SVSU’s Veteran Alumni Award in 2017.

The Pat Tillman Award for Service, created in memory of former NFL player and U.S. Army Ranger Pat Tillman who was killed in 2004 while serving in Afghanistan, is presented to an individual with a strong connection to sports whose service to others echoes Tillman’s legacy.

You can read more about Gretchen here

The ESPYS program, hosted by NBA MVP Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors, will be televised live at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.