ERIE, Pa. — Eva Tucker Jr., a longtime faculty member at Penn State Behrend and a leader in the Erie community, died April 30, surrounded by his family. He was 84.
Tucker taught geoscience at Behrend, where he also supervised undergraduate research projects and contributed regularly to scholarly publications. He retired in 2001 after nearly 40 years with the college.
“Eva had the rare ability to be low-key and approachable, while also being a force for change,” said Penn State Behrend Chancellor Ralph Ford, who served as a faculty member alongside Tucker in the 1990s. “His strength as a leader came from his ability to connect to people, not just on campus but in the broader community.”
Tucker was a well-known leader in the Erie area, serving on the boards of the Greater Erie Community Action Committee, the Erie Redevelopment Authority, and the Erie County Diabetes Association, among other organizations. He also was active in community centers and with the Erie chapter of the NAACP.
He was perhaps best known in the community for another role, however — as a member of the school board of the Erie City School District for more than 30 years. That position epitomized Tucker’s lifelong commitment to education, whether in Erie elementary schools or the halls of higher learning at Behrend.
To Tucker, education was “a lifelong process,” he told the Erie Times-News in 2002. Though neither of his parents completed high school, they urged their children to excel in school. “We weren’t allowed to use excuses,” he said.
Tucker’s own education began in a segregated, one-room schoolhouse in the era before Brown v. Board of Education declared that separate was not equal. He was born in northern Mississippi in 1935 and grew up in Cincinnati. It was there — at the University of Cincinnati — that he earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in geology. He began his teaching career in a Cincinnati suburb before moving with his family to Erie to accept a position at Penn State Behrend.
At Behrend, Tucker became known for his warm personality and easy-going nature. Pamela Silver, now associate dean for academic affairs, first met Tucker in 1993, when she joined the Behrend science faculty to teach biology. Tucker immediately became a mentor, helping her navigate her first months on campus; he later became a colleague, as they worked together researching wetlands on campus.
Above all, though, he was a friend — so much so that Silver, who plays the bagpipes, surprised him by serenading him with “Scotland the Brave” as he walked to class on his last day of teaching in 2001.
“He was incredibly kind and welcoming, and his teaching style was an extension of his personality,” Silver said. “Everyone loved Eva.”
Tucker is survived by his wife of 58 years, Evelyn Tucker, and their children and grandchildren. To read the full obituary, or to read or sign the condolence book, visit Burton Funeral Homes & Crematory.