Group photo from retreat

Leading with Heart

New scholarship created to honor late inclusivity expert Tonquise “TQ” Evans ’03

Employees at advertising technology company Mediavine remember colleague Tonquise “TQ” Jabari Evans ’03, who passed away from cancer last April, as having a one-in-a-million gift for lifting others up.

Evans was heralded throughout the organization as a bridge builder and selfless counselor. She had an uncanny ability to bring people together using tools like kindness, laughter, and the power of learning.

“TQ went all in, leading with her whole heart in absolutely everything she did at Mediavine,” said Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer Amber Bracegirdle. Anyone who met her was struck by her warm demeanor and passion for helping others.

Mediavine has partnered with Evans’ husband, Adam, to honor her life and legacy by creating a memorial scholarship at her beloved alma mater, Mary Baldwin. The Tonquise “TQ” Evans ’03 Endowed Scholarship will help prepare generations of young learners to follow in Evans’ footsteps and become inclusive leaders that will stop at nothing to affect positive change in the world.

A protrait of Tonquise “TQ” Jabari Evans ’03
“TQ’s light and her determination to leave things better than she found them is inextinguishable,” Bracegirdle said. “You see it in the way that Mediavine employees work with each other. You see it in her family, and the friends that loved her so dearly.”

As Director of People Operations and Chief Officer of Diversity and Inclusion Evans dedicated herself to building a people-first company culture. Her tenure was characterized by tireless advocacy around diversity and inclusion, and a push to champion educational opportunities for employees. Open-door policies with leadership, representation of marginalized communities, and addressing the needs of all employees formed the bedrock of her professional philosophy. To her coworkers, she was an unwavering source of positivity and support.

“TQ saw every problem as an opportunity to collaborate, every mistake an opportunity to learn, and every day as a gift,” said Mediavine Co-Founder Matt Richenthal. She encouraged celebrating differences, and created an environment where everyone “knows they’re welcome and appreciated as their true and total self.”

Evans’ special gifts were felt at Mary Baldwin during her time as a student. For instance, a deep love of stage productions led her to found the African-American student theatre troupe Kuumba Players in 2000. There she helped fellow students build confidence and explore their identities by sharing stories from marginalized communities.

Her influence continued well after graduation. Her time at MBU inspired her to serve as an alumna mentor, and to frequently return to help with special events — particularly those sponsored by the Office of Inclusive Excellence. Her interactions with students were marked by efforts to affirm that their personal journeys were full of transferable, marketable skills.

A photo from the retreat of someone holding a shirt
“Tonquise was always providing opportunities for building someone’s self-worth,” said MBU Chief Diversity Officer Andrea Cornett-Scott, who taught and advised Evans. She recalls how Evans would visit campus and give away business suits to help students enter the workplace. During the annual Black Baby Doll Drive, she’d arrive dressed to the nines with armfuls of dolls to give to local young girls.

“To me, Tonquise’s legacy has always been making someone’s life better than she found it,” said Cornett-Scott.

Bracegirdle and Richenthal say the memorial scholarship is intended to honor that legacy: It will be awarded starting next year to a performing arts or marketing and communications major in the Ida B. Wells Living-Learning Community.

“This is a way for TQ to continue to shape and influence the lives of the students she cared so much about, at the school she loved so much,” said Bracegirdle.

That prospect fills Cornett-Scott with pride and appreciation. (She is the founder of the Ida B. Wells community and its lead adviser.)

“Reaching back and helping a student get through school is so Tonquise,” she said. “Whenever I asked her to do anything for our students she would say, ‘you helped me so I must help them.’ Tonquise was unflappable, dynamic, creative, and inspiring — she’s [the kind of person] we hope Ida B. Wells women will aspire to become.”

To make a contribution to the Tonquise “TQ” Evans ‘03 Endowed Scholarship fund and help create opportunities for future compassionate changemakers, please visit the MBU Empowers online giving page. Donors can designate the scholarship’s name in either the fund designation or the comment section.