Mark Everson ’76, now commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, spent the year before he came to Yale in the company of chickens on a poultry farm in Zambia.

As the 2005 recipient of the Eustace Theodore Fellowship, Everson spoke to about 40 students at a Calhoun College Master’s Tea on Monday. The theme of the fellowship this year is “the curious use of a Yale education.” During the tea, Everson related his unconventional career path — not only has Everson spent time on a poultry farm, but before becoming IRS commissioner he also travelled abroad and served in the Reagan administration. He informed students about the operations and goals of the IRS, and encouraged them to enter public service.

“What we try to do with this fellowship is to bring people in who are somewhat off the beaten trail,” said Association of Yale Alumni Director Jeff Brenzel ’75, who coordinated the Eustace Theodore Fellowship events.

Everson began his career in a law firm before serving in the Reagan administration. He then returned to the private sector and worked for SC Internationals, a food packaging company. He also lived in France for three years while working for a company that enabled him to travel to Turkey, where he adopted two Turkish children. Everson re-entered public service at the Office of Management and Budget and became IRS commissioner in 2003.

“If you asked me three years ago if things would work out this way, I would say that I didn’t think so,” Everson said. “Rather I drew on the richness of all that experience, which made me equipped to do the job that I’m doing.”

During the talk, Everson answered questions on the technical operations of the IRS and informed students of his philosophy and approach to running it. He stressed the importance of preserving the independence and non-partisan nature of the agency.

“The only way to make contribution is to do my job down the middle, so that it will be acknowledged by both sides of the aisle,” Everson said.

Everson expressed his wish to restore the IRS’s reputation after claims during the late 1990s that the agency lacked rigor in enforcement. He said his goal is to “balance” service to taxpayers with the enforcement of the law.

In his speech, Everson echoed the sentiment of the fellowship, when he said that students should explore their career opportunities. He particularly encouraged a career in public service.

“I think it’s important that students understand that there are different choices for a career, and I think that public service is a very good choice,” Everson said.

Many students who attended the tea said they thought Everson’s talk was interesting and that he was engaging.

“He comes across as a very colorful and magnetic person,” Marcos Luis ’07 said. “He is extremely candid, a very fascinating person and very refreshing.”

Others said they agreed with Everson’s non-partisan approach to running the IRS.

“Mark seems to me to exemplify that dedication to public service that transcends partisan politics,” Brenzel said.

Everson said he appreciated the opportunity to return to Yale and interact with students. He cautioned current students not to follow some Yalies of his day who limited themselves when choosing careers.

“The only watch-out I have is that many students now still want to go to law or medical school, just like in my days,” Everson said.