History - 1980s

1986 - The John B. Ervin Scholars Program for Black Americans is announced in the Washington University Record.


Concerned about the low number of undergraduate minority students entering the University in 1986 (36 black students began that Fall), Chancellor William H. Danforth asks his special assistant, James E. McLeod, “to think about how we could approach this” issue of minority recruiting. Thus was born the idea for the John B. Ervin Scholars Program.

The Program is named in honor of Dr. John B. Ervin, the first African-American dean at Washington University in St. Louis. Known as “Mr. Educator,” Dr. Ervin firmly believed that “every young person is able to learn, [and that] every young person should have an opportunity to learn.” 


1987 - First Class Chosen

Out of 305 applicants, 11 Scholars comprise the first class. 

From the inception of the Program, Dean James E. McLeod, Mrs. Dorothy Elliott (who served as the Assistant Director for the first fifteen years of the Program), and Dean Adrienne Glore, from the Dean of Students Office, dedicated themselves to developing a Program and a four-year experience, including Ervin Orientation, monthly activities, and the Winter Retreat (first held in January 1999). These activities and others initiated over the years such as sErvin, the Senior Showcase, and the Senior Graduation Dinner, address students’ academic, co-curricular, social, and cultural development and service to the community.





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