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Ervin’s dedication earns him Massey Award

A warm, caring attitude combined with impressive results in his work are traits that describe Archie Wilson Ervin, assistant to the vice chancellor for university affairs and winner of a 1995 C. Knox Massey Award for distinguished service.

Under his leadership, enrollment of blacks and American Indians at Carolina has jumped from 7 to 11 percent in 10 years. Of minority students accepted, more are choosing to attend Carolina rather than another university.

“He’s committed to excellence,” said Vice Chancellor Harold Wallace. “Whatever he does, it has to be done perfectly and on time.”

A large part of Ervin’s responsibilities is working with other offices to arrange campus visits for promising students. These events include Project Uplift, which caters to juniors beginning to think about college; High School Honors and National Achievement Days, which bring students to Carolina in the fall of their senior year as they are deciding where to apply; and Decision Days, which is aimed at having accepted students enroll at Carolina.

“He has the vision and the insight to pull those projects off so the students just don’t want to go anyplace else,” said Beverly Leake, an assistant director in the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid. “There’s not too many people you can say that about.”

For Ervin, who has served in his current position since 1986, the task is immensely satisfying.

“I’m able to provide constructive guidance and advice to young people,” he said. “I can intervene at this critical time.”

A survey completed in May showed that 64 percent of last year’s entering minority students were the first generation in their families to attend college. Those students often have more questions and need more guidance when embarking on higher education, explained Ervin, who starts working with students as early as the 10th grade.

“I derive my greatest joy when those students become the ones who complete the process and enroll,” he said.

But Ervin doesn’t abandon students once they have accepted their admissions offer or lose interest in them after they are settled in at Carolina.

“Not even after you graduate,” said Billie Burney, assistant director of admissions. As a member of the Carolina class of ’89, she has known and worked with Ervin since her undergraduate days.

One way he has enhanced minority opportunities on campus is by setting up a mentoring program for minority students who wish to pursue graduate or professional education. Another is by founding and raising funds for the Martin Luther King Scholarship Award, which helped the University become the first academic institution to win the Martin Luther King Federal Holiday Commission Award.

Ervin, who is working toward a doctorate in public administration and public policy, relishes the intellectual life here.

“The constant stimuli are great,” he said. “There are so many opportunities to be on the cutting edge of issues and concerns.”

He also appreciates the increasing cooperation he sees among the different units with which he works.

“University departments are not working in a vacuum, as I thought they were 10 years ago,” he said. “It’s really an open-systems model, where all the units have an effect on each other, and now they’re aware of that.” For instance, changes in financial aid are evaluated quickly for their impact on admission and graduation rates, he said.

If Ervin could alter one thing about the University, he said he would encourage people to think more positively about change.

“I wish that people would not be so quick to rush to the conclusion that change would harm the University,” he said. “While not every change is good, every change ought to be fully debated; they do provide chances for advancement.”

Constantly promoting the lives of minority students on campus, Ervin has come to be known as a true friend to his recruits.

“I think he’s a very warm, caring person, and this is something that comes across to the students and the parents, and they believe in him,” Leake said.


Originally published by University Gazette: July 12, 1995

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