Stacey Godfrey Evans (J.D.’03) remembers entering college as an undergraduate student at UGA and feeling the sort of imposter syndrome that is all too common among first-generation college students.
“I remember kind of looking to the left, looking to the right and realizing that everybody seemed to have family that had been there before,” Stacey said. “That added to my anxiety of, ‘oh my gosh, have I gotten ahead of myself here? Am I really cut out for this?’”
Despite her apprehension, she dove into all the university had to offer, getting involved with the Student Government Association, the Pre-Law Fraternity and Young Democrats. By the time Stacey enrolled in law school, she was thoroughly involved in the Democratic party, so much so that she was a delegate at the Democratic National Convention in the summer of 2000, which caused her to miss her first few days of classes at the School of Law.
“I was there for Al Gore’s acceptance speech, then the balloons drop and I am running out of the Staples Center in Los Angeles to get on a red-eye flight so I can be back in time for Friday morning classes,” Stacey said. “I go to my car in the parking deck at Hartsfield-Jackson, and of course I had a flat tire.”
Rushing back to Athens after getting her tire changed, she went to her apartment to grab her books and change clothes. “My now-husband, Andrew, lived right across the breezeway from my apartment. So I’m running into my apartment … and I literally run into him. That was the first time we met,” Stacey said.
After her hectic first day of law school, she soared. Despite the inherently competitive nature of law school, Stacey remembers how supportive her classmates were at UGA and she still keeps in touch with many of them.
Fast forward to 2011, Stacey had just finished her first session in the Georgia State House of Representatives, where she fought to preserve the HOPE Scholarship. She was working at a firm that was then called Powell Goldstein Frazer & Murphy when she had the opportunity to open a law practice with renowned Atlanta trial attorney Lin Wood to work on a whistleblower case involving Medicare fraud.
“We started the firm in about two weeks … it was absolutely insane, looking back,” Stacey said. Despite the risk, she added it is what she is most proud of in her career. “Our clients were two amazing men, a doctor and a nurse. They saw something they thought was wrong and they stood up and said it. To be able to represent them was an honor of a lifetime.”
It was winning this case that allowed her to make a donation to the School of Law to fund a scholarship for first-generation students, something she treasures having the ability to do. Stacey said she remembers hiding that she was a first-generation student in college, but now she embraces it and even sees it as an advantage. She said being the first in her family to attend college allows her to connect to people with similar backgrounds who have faced some of the same challenges. Ultimately, she loves having the ability to give a voice to the voiceless.
Stacey is not the only member of the Evans family that champions people in difficult circumstances. Andrew, who is also a Class of 2003 graduate, represented homeowners in wrongful foreclosure suits against banks after the 2008 Mortgage Crisis and continues to practice in the area of financial litigation.
The couple has two children – Ashley and Jack – and as a family they have put together care packages to distribute to Atlanta’s homeless population during the coronavirus pandemic. Ashley has even started lemonade stands before, donating the proceeds to a local homeless shelter.
“I’m living a life my younger self could not have even imagined,” Stacey said, and because of that, she continues seeking to open the same doors for other young people.
– Bailey Walker