John B. Ervin Scholars Program

For more than 30 years, Washington University in St. Louis has offered talented students the opportunity to participate in a remarkable scholar community.

Ervin Scholars

The John B. Ervin Scholars Program honors the memory of a nationally renowned educator and community leader who believed in giving students a first-rate education. He also believed in fostering other qualities in these students, including leadership, community service and diversity. Today, more than 800 John B. Ervin Scholars have graduated from Washington University in St. Louis.

For students who embody the spirit of Dr. Ervin, the Ervin Scholars Program offers annually renewable:

  • Full-tuition scholarship with $2,500 stipend
  • Partial-tuition scholarship

Ervin Applicants may also apply for other programs and scholarships that match their interests. The Ervin Scholars Program is only open to U.S. Citizens, permanent residents, and undocumented or DACA students living in the U.S.⁠

A dedicated Ervin staff helps to nurture and support students, mentoring them as they further develop leadership skills and prepare for important, meaningful careers and lives of contribution. Ervin Scholars get to know each other through social gatherings, retreats, and service projects. In fact, Ervin Scholars regard the experience as more than a program: They feel as though they are part of a warm and supportive family.

Applying and Eligibility
The Ervin Scholars Program is highly competitive. Awards are based on academic achievement, leadership, service and diversity. The Ervin Scholars Program is only open to U.S. Citizens, permanent residents, and undocumented or DACA students living in the U.S.⁠ Our program selection committee evaluates all application and invites finalists to come for a finalist weekend in the spring of their senior year of high school.

Scholars will be selected based on

  • Academic excellence
  • Demonstrated initiative and community leadership
  • A history of bringing diverse groups together
  • A commitment to community service
  • Perseverance through challenging circumstances
  • A willingness to challenge oneself
  • Service to historically underprivileged people

In order to be considered for the scholarship, students must complete an application for admission to Washington University in St. Louis and the Ervin Scholars Program application. Students chosen are expected to exemplify the spirit of John B. Ervin and honor and continue his legacy in the Washington University community.

Selection Process and Dates

Students who apply to any undergraduate division of Washington University in St. Louis may apply for the John B. Ervin Scholars Program. This nationally pre-eminent program is intended to foster a richly diverse educational atmosphere on campus and to enhance the overall quality and diversity of the Washington University student body.

Ervin Scholars undergo a rigorous application and selection process, detailed below.

November 1, 2020
Early Decision I applications are due. Submit an application for admission to Washington University, including a transcript. Early decision applications have no bearing on Ervin Scholars applications.

January 2, 2021
Early Decision II and Regular Decision and Scholarship applications are due.

Submit a separate application to the John B. Ervin Scholars Program. If you wish to apply online, you must first submit your Common Application to gain access to the WUSTL Pathway. ​Please allow up to 48 hours for receiving your link for the WUSTL Pathway. Read more information on the university and Ervin applications.

Our Namesake: Dr. John B. Ervin

Dr. John B. Ervin

Nationally renowned black educator, scholar, and author, Dr. John B. Ervin (1916-1992) committed his life to the education of all people. He knew the power of education in his life, and he saw it as a preparation for a full and more humane life, a life of leadership and service committed to the improvement of the human condition. The story of John B. Ervin, born in Birmingham, Alabama, and reared in Kent, Ohio, is one of achievement and determination in the face of discrimination.

In the early 1930s, John B. Ervin graduated from high school in Kent, Ohio. He was only 16 and an exceptional student, but he had little hope of attending college. His father, an illiterate railroad worker, had died recently; he had two younger siblings; and his mother, struggling to get by, was doing housework for a Kent State University dean.

This dean took an interest in Ervin and paid his freshman tuition. Ervin excelled at Kent State while also working at jobs on campus. By the time he graduated, he had repaid his benefactor. After teaching for several years, he went on to graduate school at Columbia University.

In 1950, Dr. Ervin received his doctorate from Columbia University and trained teachers for a number of decades. In 1968, Dr. Ervin was invited to Washington University in St. Louis as dean of the School of Continuing Education, becoming the first African American to hold a dean’s position at the University. He held leadership positions on boards of numerous St. Louis organizations, including the Danforth Foundation, St. Louis Children’s Hospital, Saint Louis Art Museum, and the United Way. Presidents Ford and Carter appointed him to the National Advisory Council on Extension and Continuing Education. He was also a life member of the NAACP. Dr. Ervin published a number of articles on education in professional journals. He also served as vice president of the Danforth Foundation from 1977 until his retirement in 1986.

John B. Ervin benchA beloved member of the university community, Dr. Ervin was deeply respected for his honesty and integrity. He is best remembered for his commitment to excellence, his engagement with the community, and his efforts to bring diverse people together to heal divisions among them.

“John Ervin had a distinguished career, but that wasn’t what made him so special. It was who he was. He was a man of character as well as ability – a man who combined intelligence with wisdom. We all went to John with difficult problems; we knew that he would be honest. We also knew that John was a man of high ideals and good will, which would steer us toward what was best.”
~ William H. Danforth
Chancellor Emeritus, Washington University in St. Louis

Our Founder: James E. McLeod

James E. McLeodDean McLeod was born and raised in 1944 in Dothan, Alabama. His family’s emphasis on education spurred him to study Chemistry and German at Morehouse College. He received his degree in 1966 and pursued a graduate degree in German at Rice University, where he was a National Defense Education Act Fellow and Woodrow Wilson Fellow. After teaching at Indiana University in Bloomington, Dean McLeod joined the Washington University in St. Louis community in 1974 as assistant professor of German and assistant dean of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.

During his time at Washington University, Dean McLeod served as assistant to the chancellor and director of African and African American Studies. He was appointed dean of the College of Arts & Sciences in May of 1992 and vice chancellor for students in 1995. In 1987, Dean McLeod was named the founding director of the John B. Ervin Scholars Program, a position he held until his death in September 2011.

The Four Ervin Pillars

Academic Excellence

Ervin Scholars are expected to set high standards for their academic work and maintain steady progress toward completing their degrees. Scholars regularly meet with the dean of the program to discuss academic work and strategies for success.

Ervin Scholars at Commencement Ervin Scholars routinely receive prestigious internship positions. Students have been selected to participate in the Kemper Scholars Program, the Morgan Stanley Company’s Richard B. Fisher Scholars Program, and the INROADS program for minority students, among others. In partnership with faculty members, Ervin Scholars have conducted research through the Howard Hughes Medical Institutes Fellowships and the Mellon Mays Fellowship Program. Ervin Scholars are often named to the Dean’s List and also go on to receive additional academic honors, such as Phi Beta Kappa. Two Ervin graduates have been named Rhodes Scholars.


Leadership is a hallmark of the Ervin Scholars Program, and prospective Ervin Scholars demonstrate leadership or substantive commitments in at least one extra-curricular activity during their high school careers.

Student receiving award from Chancellor WrightonAt Washington University in St. Louis, Ervin Scholars demonstrate a continued commitment to leadership. They take prominent roles in such organizations as the Washington University Board of Trustees, the Student Union, various cultural and civic groups, honoraries, and entrepreneurial ventures. They are active in fraternities, sororities, and career related associations. Many Ervin Scholars have been involved in varsity, club and intramural athletics, music and dance groups, and campus publications. Ervin Scholars actively participate in nearly every student group on campus and regularly create their own groups.

Community Service

John B. Ervin believed that service to others in need promotes the health and growth of a community. Each Ervin Scholar should be able to demonstrate a meaningful service commitment to his or her local community during high school. That service will continue at Washington University in St. Louis, where Ervin Scholars volunteer their time in areas that serve many sectors of the community.

Through “sERVIN”, Ervin’s flagship community service program, students volunteer their time in areas that serve many communities. Recent programs include volunteering at the Mathew Dickey Boys & Girls Club in St. Louis and service trips to Oxford, Mississippi. They have helped at homeless shelters and food banks through programs offered by the Campus YMCA and helped in Each One Teach One tutorial programs at St. Louis Public Schools. Ervin Scholars have also created new programs, including a campaign to expose undergraduates to inner-city medical work.

Whether they are serving orphanages in Uganda, the U.S. Embassy in Portugal or the Peace Corps, Ervin Scholars are committed to making a difference in their community and around the world.


A tenet at the core of the Ervin Scholars Program is diversity and a commitment to bringing diverse groups together. The Ervin Program, for many, is a second family throughout and beyond their time at Washington University. This family of Ervin Scholars includes individuals from various ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds, geographic areas, religions, lifestyles and major areas of study. It is a family of diverse individuals who create a safe, encouraging and supportive community for one another.

Ervin Scholars on Brookings Hall stepsIn addition to embodying diversity through various backgrounds and interests, Ervin Scholars also embrace a commitment to diversity. This commitment to diversity is not defined by a singular aspect of tolerance, acceptance, or respect; rather, it is inclusive of all of these and more. Ervin Scholars are aware that diversity is a multifaceted concept and that a commitment to diversity, in part, consists of showing an understanding for the differences of others.

Students pose together

Ervin Scholars are instrumental in establishing organizations and activities in collaboration with fellow students, as well as on a local and national level. They also work closely with the Center for Diversity and Inclusion to promote productive discussion and advocacy in support of all forms of diversity on campus.

Contact Info

Office of Scholar Programs
Washington University in St. Louis
CB 1131
One Brookings Dr.
St. Louis, MO 63130-4899

Jonathan Solomon
Director, John B. Ervin Scholars Program
Contact Jonathan by email


Women’s Building, Suite 005


Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.