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Ervin Scholars Celebrate 37 Years at Washington University

The 35th Ervin Scholars Anniversary Celebration, delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was held September 30-October 2, 2022, with a variety of events on campus and a dinner held at the Chase Hotel. Washington University Libraries were excited to play a part during this important anniversary weekend, and welcomed former Ervin scholars to view an exhibition in honor of the John B. Ervin Scholars Program, Ervin Scholars: Honor the Legacy.

Displays in glass cases
Ervin Scholars: Honor the Legacy exhibition in Olin Library.

The exhibition focuses on the contribution of many scholars in a variety of professional areas, and is on view in John M. Olin Library until November 27. The exhibit was created by Clara McLeod, Sonya Rooney, Cheryl Holland, Rudolph Clay, Jessi Cerutti, Ian Lanier, and Elizabeth Williams-Johnson. 

People looking at a books display
Clara McLeod, environmental and planetary sciences librarian, and former Ervin scholars viewing books authored by Ervin alumni.

The John Ervin Scholars Program was established in 1987 as the Ervin Scholars Program for Black Americans which sought academically talented students to help diversify the student population at Washington University and create a community of scholars. It became a national model other universities utilized to increase the enrollment of Black students at their institutions. In 1995, the program was opened to students of all races due to a change in the federal law.

Known on and off campus for the stellar achievements of its participants, the Ervin Scholars program is a family that values its establishing principles of scholarship, leadership, service and diversity, and shares a desire to make meaningful contributions to Washington University, the St. Louis community, and beyond.

Three speakers sitting on chairs on the stage.
WashU alumni and past Ervin scholars Brittany Packnett (center) and Morgan De Baun (right) in conversation with Professor Rafia Zakar at the Edison Theatre. Photo by Ajla Ahmetovic.

Four hundred and twenty-five alumni and family members returned to campus and actively engaged in conversation reflecting on the past, present and imagining the future of this extraordinary program. Among events that celebrated the accomplishments of Ervin scholars were the University’s signature Assembly Series that was held in the Edison Theatre, featuring two well-known alumni: Brittany Packnett, the NBC News and MSNBC analyst, and Morgan DeBaun, founder and CEO of Blavity Inc, a platform for Black millennials.

Rafia Zafar, a professor of English, of African and African American studies and of American culture studies, moderated the discussion. Wilmetta Toliver-Diallo, an assistant dean in Arts & Sciences, and Laura Stephenson, a former assistant director of the Ervin program, convened the event.

The 35th anniversary dinner featured remarks by Chancellor Andrew D. Martin, Provost Emeritus Edward Macias, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Anna Gonzalez, and alumnus Sacha Coupet. The Assembly Series Celebration was sponsored by the Washington University Office of the Provost, the Black Alumni Council, and the Power of Arts and Sciences Event Series.