School NewsMar 3, 2022
— updated Apr 8, 2022
Remembering Jim Ervin
A beloved teacher who found joy in encouraging students every day
During his decades as an educator, Jim Ervin never lost his genuine enthusiasm for teaching or working with young people, and Miss Hall’s alumnae from the ’60s to through the ’90s regularly cite his lasting influence as a teacher, coach, and mentor in their lives.
Mr. Ervin passed away peacefully on Tuesday, March 1. He had been living with his daughter Jennifer ’79 in New York and recently moved into a care facility in Vermont, near daughter Jamie.
By Hannah Van Sickle ’92
“JKE” — as Mr. Ervin was affectionately known — arrived at Miss Hall’s in the fall of 1968. He was recruited from the all-boys Berkshire School by headmaster Richard McLain to teach science and math, famously frustrating subjects for adolescents (and historically taught by men) to girls. He was more than up to the challenge.
“I’ve just never believed that girls couldn’t do it, and I never let them think that,” he said in a 1997 interview. As to his recipe for success? A bit of humor, a wide smile, and endless patience (as evidenced by his open-door policy for early-morning extra help).
Left, Thanksgiving 1997; Right, 1980, the ritual of "burning a ski pole" to induce a snowstorm.
Mr. Ervin’s students likely recall nightly homework, daily five-minute quizzes, and tests returned — folded in half lengthwise — only after an “achievement graph” had been drawn on the chalkboard and discussed. When he saw success, he looked to foster it — no matter the arena.
““The thirty years I spent [at MHS] were probably my best years, and I loved every single student, faculty member and Trustee who dedicated themselves to the School.””
During the course of his tenure, Mr. Ervin taught math, geology and physics; served as Assistant Head of School (1981-1989) and Mathematics Department Chair; and coached varsity tennis for 14 years. In 1994, the Miss Hall’s School Mathematics prize, awarded annually at Commencement, was renamed The James K. Ervin Mathematics Prize.
During a recent visit with Mr. Ervin at the home of his daughter, Jennifer, it was clear he never lost his enthusiasm for Miss Hall’s, even two decades into retirement.
“The thirty years I spent [at MHS] were probably my best years, and I loved every single student, faculty member and Trustee who dedicated themselves to the School,” Mr. Ervin said at the September 2016 Groundbreaking and Donor Appreciation Dinner for Linn Hall, home to the School’s Mathematics, Science, and Engineering Departments and the Horizons program. Today, a math classroom in the multidisciplinary building bears his name.
Mr. Ervin left his mark at Miss Hall’s in myriad ways. In the classroom, his kindness was matched by high expectations. Outside of the classroom, he was an advisor and mentor to many who made a difference in the lives of his students.
Still, Mr. Ervin’s first love was family. He and his wife Judi, an MHS nurse from 1971-1974 (who predeceased her husband in 2014), were named honorary members of the Class of 1972 — the first class he taught from start to finish. The Ervins were married for 56 years and have three daughters: Jennifer Fimbel ‘79, Jamison Ervin and Jessica Stankus; they also have five grandchildren.
Not long ago, Mr. Ervin assured Jennifer that he “had a great life and regretted nothing.” He found joy in encouraging students every day during his thirty years at MHS, and we send our sympathy to all those who knew him well and invite everyone to submit remembrances to email@example.com to be published on the Miss Hall’s website. He will be deeply missed.
Remembering Jim Ervin
Beloved former Math Teacher, Coach, and Assistant Head of School Jim Ervin passed away March 1, 2022. Here are just a few of the images from Mr. Ervin's three decades at MHS.
Did you ever have a teacher that impacted your life in ways that made you see the world differently? That made you laugh? One of those teachers for me was Mr. Ervin.
He was my first math teacher when I went to boarding school my sophomore year of high school. I was terrible with numbers, and he not only helped me learn but made it fun! Bianca Nardi-Hahn ’96, I’ll always remember when you’d raise your hand for every question, and he had some funny remark. I sat right in front of you, and he’d sigh, smile, and answer every single question.
He also taught me to love tennis. He was a kind coach and loved the competition and his team.
Hearing the news today that our MHS community lost another amazing educator from my years broke my heart. We need more Mr. Ervin’s in this world. You inspired every single student, Mr. Ervin, and will always be beloved by your Miss Hall’s family. Sending your daughters so much love and our condolences. — Rachel Gunsberg Bhatia ’97
I am incredibly sad to learn the news about Mr. Ervin. He was truly one of the best, if not the best, teacher I ever had. His incredible kindness, patience, and encouragement were always accompanied by his wonderful smile and the warmth of his laughter. For a student struggling with math, he was a gift from heaven.
I send my heartfelt condolences to his family. An exceptional man: an exceptional teacher. How fortunate his students were, along with the entire MHS community. — Nini Alig Saman ’71
I wanted to pass on this photo. Mr. Ervin came back for our 20th reunion which was special! The class of 1998 loved him!
He shaped and supported us. Like all MHS teachers, he was a wonderful! — Caroline Constantine Rosen ’88
Mr. Ervin was my math teacher as well as my counsellor. I started late in my first term of the third year, and I had some social problems with cliques and girls who has been there since their first year.
He was kindhearted and softly spoken and saw the issues and fixed them quickly.
His problem-solving abilities struck me, as then a shy, homesick girl who had recently lost her father, as kind, astute, and measured, with his calm demeanor. He had a mighty smile, belying a happy soul. He struck me as a peaceful man, and he was always one of my favorite teachers.
I send my condolences and fond memories of Mr. Ervin to his daughters and family. — Monica Donnelly Godwin ’77
Mr. Ervin is why I became a teacher and have been for 36 years. He gave me the power to have some confidence in myself academically. I truly feel blessed to have known him. — Véronique de La Bruyere ’75
It’s hard to express on paper all that Mr. Ervin was to us. To begin with, you were always welcomed into his presence with that authentic huge smile. That was him, welcoming you in. He always had time for you and was utterly and completely present.
His office was an open place in the main hallway where girls were gathered on his coach laughing and chatting. Or, the door was closed, and he was in a one-on-one with someone in need in some way… academic or otherwise. This was typical of that hall. All warmth and open doors…unless otherwise needed!
Gentle and balanced he made you know that girls were equals in the room and that he expected us to achieve. Period. There were so many small moments during the day where he filled the school with warmth and absolute presence that he really had to be experienced.
You will always be remembered by those of us fortunate enough to call you our MHS teacher and mentor. — Lynn Zuckerman ’88
Jim Ervin was cool.
And this was simply because he was so damn authentic. It was clear that he loved teaching and loved math and science. But, it was also clear that he understood there were more than a few Miss Hall's students who cared for neither. Sadly, I was one of those students, but this did not deter Mr. Ervin in the least. We got along famously.
This had everything to do with Mr. Ervin's unending patience and fantastic sense of humor. His enthusiasm for his subjects never seemed to lag. When students didn't understand a concept, this was his cue to dig deeper until you did.
Of course, my favorite part of the day was just sitting around with Mr. Ervin discussing current events and life at Miss Hall’s. Oh, and his family. His love for family knew no bounds, and he loved to talk about them. He was endlessly interesting, always fair and funny to boot. The world is a bit dimmer without Jim. But if you said this to Jim he'd flash his million dollar smile, say you were crazy and tell you to get on with the important things in life. — Lynne Eckardt ’70
Even though I didn't have Mr. Ervin as a teacher, I thought I'd share a brief story with you. During the summer of 2010, I received the MHS Bulletin. In the back of the of the magazine was a brief piece, written by Mr. Ervin, about the passing of former MHS photography teacher Walter Scott. With help from the MHS Advancement office, I was able to reach Mr. Ervin by e-mail. I sent him a brief description about myself, saying that I was a day student, a member of the Class of 1977, etc. Mr. Ervin’s response was, “Cindy, of course I remember you!! ” ’Nuff said! — Cindy Hebert Lloyd ’77
I was so sorry to hear of the passing of Mr. Ervin recently. I so remember Mr. Ervin from the moment I stepped on campus — his sweet smile and wonderful sense of humor. He was a passionate teacher and believed in all of the young women that attended Miss Hall’s. Coming from a large public school, I was not fully prepared for the rigors of the Miss Hall’s curriculum. Mr. Ervin met me most mornings to help me get through pre-calculus and geology. It was hard work, but he believed in me and let me know that. I send me condolences to his daughters. Rest In Peace Mr. Ervin! You will be missed! — Colleen Mulgrew ’85
James Ervin (Mr. Ervin as we knew him) was a big part of my life at Miss Hall’s School. I would like to recognize Jim and honor him for his dedication and achievements to the School and to all his girls at MHS.
I attended Miss Hall’s from 1983 and graduated in 1985. Mr. Ervin was my Science teacher, my tennis coach, and also my guidance counselor. He was always hard-working, lovely, and patient in the Science classroom, and encouraged me to do my best. Even when I wouldn’t receive the best grade on one of his tests, he would always understand and make me feel supported.
We had a nice connection, and this was also due to Jim also being my tennis coach. He spent weekday afternoons, not to mention Saturdays, driving his MHS tennis girls all around the Berkshires for tennis meets. Now that’s dedication. He never once complained about the endless driving to our tennis games that took up all his weekend time. He always cheered us on and loved to see his MHS girls win. He also supported us even if we lost. Jim had a great sense of humor, and we would often share stories and laugh hysterically on the drive to the tennis matches. He always felt more like family for me, and I liked and respected him greatly. I would pop into his office during the day to chat, ask a question, and make him laugh.
Jim and I have kept in good touch and our close relationship through the years exemplifies the true meaning of his work as a teacher. This sums it up for me: “Sometimes you don’t remember what a teacher says to you in 1985, but you will always remember how they treated you and made you feel.” And that feeling of happiness and unwavering support, I carry to this day. Jim will always be a special teacher in my heart. Love always. — Hillary Seed Polednik ’85