Evan Gerald Birks, respected businessman, loving husband, brother, father and uncle, dedicated philanthropist, passionate musician and eternally curious engineer died peacefully at home in White Plains, NY with his wife at his side on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, after a short, intense battle with cancer. He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Kurth, his daughter, Kristin Margaret, his son Kenneth Ryrie (Jill) and his grandson, Sebastian Gerald. Evan was predeceased by his sisters, Virginia Alexandor of Vancouver, BC, Nancy Hale of Montreal, QC and by Judith Guernsey Birks of Virginia, mother of Kristin and Kenneth.
Evan thrived in a progressive educational environment which encouraged critical thinking and exploration on the part of each student. He attended elementary school at St. George’s in Montreal, a school his parents helped found. He then completed his high school at The Putney School in Putney, VT, a school focused on learning by doing and at the forefront of progressive education. He received a B.Sc.Eng. in Electrical Engineering from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, OH, again a progressive institution where Evan benefited greatly from the newly introduced Co-op program for students. While there he designed and built the first model solar car under the tutelage of Charles Kettering. He then earned an MBA in Finance from Columbia. Later, Evan certified with the Institute of Certified Management Consultants of Ontario as a C.M.C.
Evan’s employment continued to contribute to his understanding of the world of finance and technology. He started his working career as a stock analyst for the automotive, aerospace and machinery industries, then joined Sperry-UNIVAC as a senior systems analyst and consultant. In 1965, he joined Touche Ross as a management consultant, ultimately becoming a partner. He co-authored an acclaimed Prentice-Hall book, Managing the Systems Development Process, which was so popular it went into paperback. Evan left consulting to apply his skills as Executive Vice-President and Director of Sand Technology Systems and then became CFO. He rounded out his consulting career as a partner in the GSA Consulting Group in Toronto. While pursuing this busy business life, Evan also found time to be on the Board of Governors of the Toronto YMCA contributing to both their fiscal fitness and helping establish programs which would lead people to better employment.
In 1994, Evan continued his life’s adventures and moved to White Plains, NY where he resided the rest of his life. He became an American citizen and an active participant in the election process by serving as an official at every election. While in White Plains, Evan continued his consulting as an independent working with firms as diverse as one focused on environmental assessments and others in systems implementation.
Evan used all of his business acumen when he became the Chairman of the Birks Family Foundation, headquartered in Montreal. He drove the restructuring of the organization and the Board to achieve a professional status and helped them to become the respected institution they are today. He was Chairman Emeritus at his death. Under his guidance, the Foundation became a driving force in the creation of the Transforming Autism Care Consortium (TACC) designed to encourage research and intervention in Autism Spectrum Disorder, inspired by his grandson who was diagnosed at age two.
Evan was not a one-dimensional person. He followed his father’s example as an outdoors man, fishing for salmon, winter camping, canoeing on the Great Lakes. He had a love for music of all kinds. He started his career with the piano under the tutelage of a woman in Montreal whose career was training concert pianists. This was so not Evan. He had an incredible ear and a passion for jazz. He could sit down at the grand piano he had inherited from an aunt and one was transported to a smokey jazz bar in New York. This led to a love of music and the performing arts which only grew over the years. He was a longtime contributor to several non-profit theaters in Manhattan and a generous supporter of PBS. He was also a good athlete, particularly when younger. He was a champion skier, a biker (biking at the age of 15 from Montreal to Putney, VT,) a superb tennis player. In 1998, he did the Dublin marathon (walking) and finished in 6 hours and 40 minutes while raising $10,000 for the Leukemia Society. Evan combined his love of travel and photography with his love of animals. While on safari in Africa for his 80th birthday, his favorite activity was photographing the animals he saw everywhere with his birthday camera. These photographs became the prized souvenirs of the trip. Many winter months were spent watching the whales migrate to and from the Sea of Cortez before and after their babies were born in early January. Even as his health was declining, he was looking forward to spending Midsummer’s Night in Iceland and his 88th birthday in Reykjavik.
Evan will be greatly missed by all who knew him. We are having a celebration of his life at the Woman’s Club of White Plains on June 7 from 5-7p.m. He will be interred at Mt. Royal Cemetery in Montreal later in the year.