sealPurdue News

May 1995

Purdue senior stands tall in the classroom

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Although Timothy D. Ervin was a walk-on for Purdue University's back-to-back Big Ten-champion men's basketball team, he takes more pride in his off-court achievements.

On May 12, those off-court achievements earned him a 3.6 overall grade-point average and a bachelor's degree from Purdue's School of Management.

"People see I'm only 5-foot-6 and all they want to talk about is my playing basketball in the Big Ten," Ervin says. "What the fans don't see is the academic side of things. I think it's important for people, young people especially, to realize just how crucial an education is to your future. Sports are fun, and are important in their own way, but if you don't get an education you could find yourself sitting on the bench."

Coach Gene Keady says: "As tri-captain, Tim was the spark plug that kept us focused and pushed us to be our best. He plays the same role in the classroom."

Although Ervin averaged 14 points and 10 assists as the most valuable player on his high-school basketball team, those weren't the numbers that brought him to Purdue.

He was an honor student during every grading period at Chicago's Providence-St. Mel High School, and his emphasis on academics there earned him valedictorian honors his senior year. He was awarded two academic scholarships, one from Heller Financial Corp., a financial services firm in Chicago where he interned, and one from Purdue.

Looking back, Ervin says he's lucky to be alive, let alone to be receiving a degree.

"While I was growing up, I didn't realize what a rough neighborhood I lived in," he says. "I saw a little bit of everything, from drug deals to gang fights. I remember plenty of times when I could have been shot, or even killed."

Ervin grew up on the west side of Chicago in an area known as "K-Town," because all of the street names began with a K. He and his younger sister, older brother and a cousin were raised by his mother and grandmother. His father died of cirrhosis of the liver when Ervin was a junior in high school. Although the family struggled, Ervin says his mother, who works for the Internal Revenue Service in Chicago, supported the family on her income, and they never relied on public support.

"My mother taught us right from wrong and helped us realize that an education was our ticket out of the inner city," Ervin says.

Paul Adams, Ervin's high-school principal, was another influential person who helped steer him in Purdue's direction.

"I planned all along to go to Georgetown and get an engineering degree," Ervin says. "But Mr. Adams asked me if I had ever considered Purdue, because they have such a strong engineering reputation. Mr. Adams put me in touch with Dr. Cornell Bell, director of the Business Opportunities Program at Purdue. After Dr. Bell came to visit with me, I knew I was going to Purdue."

The Business Opportunities Program is a minority education program that brings students to campus the summer before their freshman year to start taking core classes and to get oriented to the surroundings and programs available to them.

Bell also introduced Ervin to the School of Management. Ervin says he chose management over engineering because he was impressed with the school's focus on the technical side of management education.

"The curriculum isn't too far removed from the engineering program I was considering," he says. "It's a very rigorous, quantitatively oriented program that gives you the analytical skills you need in business. I also realized that if I wanted to own and operate any type of business, marketing and management skills would be an absolute necessity."

After graduation, Ervin will take a position in Heller Financial Corp.'s management division rotational program. He plans to pursue a master's degree soon.

What he chooses to do eventually is to fulfill a childhood dream.

"Ever since I was a little kid, I enjoyed building things," he says. "Eventually, I want to own a construction firm. The idea of building or creating something that will be here long after I'm gone fascinates me. It's a good feeling knowing that I can leave a part of me here for the benefit of others."

Sources: Timothy D. Ervin, (312) 762-3497
Gene Keady, (765) 494-3214
Cornell A. Bell, (765) 494-4371; Internet,
Writer: Victor B. Herr, (765) 494-2077; home, Internet,
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

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