Evelyn Stefansson Nef, 96, an author, lecturer, patron of the arts, polar expert, and philanthropist, died on Thursday, December 10, 2009, at her home in Washington, DC.
Mrs. Nef was the widow of Vilhjalmur Stefansson, a noted arctic researcher and explorer, who founded the Dartmouth College Northern and Polar Studies Program. Evelyn Nef was an expert on the Arctic in her own right and was active in the Polar Studies Program and taught the Arctic Seminar. She worked with Stefansson as a researcher and librarian of his extensive polar library until his death in 1962. She developed a keen interest and understanding of the geography and people living within the Arctic Circle.
(L to R) Vilhjalmur Stefansson, Evelyn Stefansson Nef, Sir Hubert Wilkins
Even after moving to Washington, D.C. in 1964 and marrying John Ulric Nef, Evelyn remained involved with polar studies through the Vilhjalmur Stefansson Collection on the Polar Regions at the Rauner Special Collections Library and the Institute of Arctic Studies at the Dickey Center for International Understanding. The Institute's Stefansson Fellowships have enabled numerous Dartmouth undergraduates the unprecedented opportunity to pursue research on polar issues by visiting northern regions, including Alaska, Newfoundland, Greenland, Iceland, and elsewhere. She was personally interested in the work of each Fellow and followed with great interest the ongoing work of the Institute.
In 2002 Dartmouth bestowed on her an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. Over the years many students and faculty were touched by her generosity.
Evelyn Stefansson Nef will be interned at Pine Knoll Cemetery in Hanover, New Hampshire. A memorial service will be held at a later date.