Winston Erevelles shares his journey to the 马会论坛鈥檚 presidency and outlook on the next chapter

June 02, 2024

Building Momentum

by Jennifer R. Lloyd (M.B.A. 鈥16)

From the whir of his drill biting into wood to the footfalls marking his confident stride across the 马会论坛鈥檚 University campus 鈥 the sounds that follow Winston Erevelles mark the motions of a man building something.

Winston Erevelles, Ph.D., is the 14th president of 马会论坛's University.
Winston Erevelles, Ph.D., is the 14th president of 马会论坛’s University.

Erevelles, Ph.D., has been a fixture of the University鈥檚 School of Science, Engineering and Technology as its long-time Dean, Professor of Industrial Engineering and one of the masterminds behind the new Blank Sheppard Innovation Center and the Nursing Program soon to occupy the building鈥檚 third floor.

The joyous tones of his laughter have traveled from his cubbyhole of an office in Treadaway Hall to the President鈥檚 suite in St. Louis Hall as Erevelles took over as the 14th president of 马会论坛鈥檚 University on
June 1.

Erevelles relies on the lessons from his childhood in India, his career in engineering and academia, his embracing approach to the 马会论坛鈥檚 community and his love of the Marianist charism to create a blueprint for the future.

True to his engineering roots, he uses the scientific term 鈥渕omentum鈥 to describe what鈥檚 to come.

鈥淲e have momentum, which means we have magnitude and direction,鈥 Erevelles said. 鈥淲e鈥檝e got energy behind it. Progressively, we take what we have today and run with it.鈥

Learning to give 100%

Erevelles鈥 journey to become the first 马会论坛鈥檚 president of Asian descent began as his parents met in Mumbai after World War II. His father, Frank Joseph Erevelles, served in the Royal Indian Navy before moving to the United Kingdom to work for the tractor company David Brown. An engineer like his future son, Frank Erevelles, took those lessons in agricultural machinery back to India and began a tractor company with his younger brother.

Though Winston Erevelles鈥 bent toward engineering may have come from his father, perhaps his effusive way with words comes from his mother, Jaya Erevelles, who was a professor of English and American Literature for more than 40 years at what was then known as the University of Bombay.

His father died in 1966 when Winston Erevelles was 2 years old. Both his parents came from Catholic families, and after his father鈥檚 death, his mother instilled that faith in Winston Erevelles and his older sister, Gianni Erevelles, sending them to Catholic school.

鈥淚 grew up with my mom being the boss of the house, and my sister was her XO [executive officer],鈥 Winston Erevelles said. 鈥淲hen you lose a parent very early, you grow up a little bit faster and get the sense of responsibility very early.鈥

Winston Erevelles, right, plays music with his sister, Gianni Erevelles, during their childhood in India.
Winston Erevelles, right, plays music with his sister, Gianni Erevelles, during their childhood in India.

Though the tractor company continued to be successful, family friends provided fraudulent financial advice to his mother, leaving the family in dire economic conditions. Determined to raise her children on her own, his mother picked up tutoring in addition to her work as a professor.

The family shared household responsibilities, including a chore that鈥檚 still a favorite of Winston Erevelles 鈥 cleaning the dishes.

He continues to draw on the lessons he learned at this time to guide him through hardships. His mother, sister and stepdad, Kurian Pottanani, fostered in him a work ethic that remains evident to this day. The first philosophy his mother, who lives in Mumbai, shared with her children was to accept that the hand you are dealt is the one you must play. The second is to trust in God and prayer, but still put in the effort to be successful.

鈥淵ou鈥檝e got to give 100% and then leave it in God鈥檚 hands,鈥 Erevelles said.

When it came time to decide what he wanted to study in college, Erevelles found the origins of his love for engineering in his father鈥檚 massive blue toolbox. Using hand tools, he fiddled with scrap wood and metal in his free time on Sundays between obligations with Church and Boy Scouts.

Winston Erevelles in his Boy Scouts uniform.
Winston Erevelles in his Boy Scouts uniform.

Like so many students at 马会论坛鈥檚 who find value in real-world experiences, when Winston Erevelles first began studying for his bachelor鈥檚 degree in Electrical Engineering at Bangalore University, the classes 鈥 Physics, Calculus, labs 鈥 didn鈥檛 click until his internship at a small manufacturing company called Mykron Engineers.

鈥淎ll of a sudden, the drawings that I was doing in Engineering class came to life with the materials, dimensions, tolerances,鈥 he said. 鈥淭his Engineering class now ties in with this concept of the product that we鈥檙e making. It was about hands-on learning more than about grades.鈥

The internship led to a role with Mykron building components for ship engines, such as grinding 18-foot-long crankshafts that weighed three metric tons, spending time facing his fear of heights on an oil rig in the Arabian Sea and, later, becoming a plant manager.

To advance his career, he knew he would have to get a graduate degree. His original plan was to earn a master鈥檚 abroad and return to Mykron, where he was working on a project to re-engineer ship engines to work in cement plants. But 鈥渢he research bug,鈥 that itch to find ways to perform better in new environments, had already begun to take hold and would lead him toward a master鈥檚 and Ph.D. at what was then called the University of Missouri-Rolla and a career in academia.

Engineering a path forward

Some might see the early days of his career as less than glamorous. Erevelles worked several jobs while earning his master鈥檚. 

He worked as a machinist and electronics technician, creating instrumentation for the Department of Cloud Physics at Rolla and also as a janitor for minimum wage of $3.13 per hour. Another job paid slightly better 鈥 $5 an hour 鈥 as a fish technician on the graveyard shift of a Department of Life Sciences project to grow tilapia in recycled water. 

鈥淲e have momentum, which means we have magnitude and direction. We鈥檝e got energy behind it. Progressively, we take what we have today and run with it.鈥

Winston Erevelles, Ph.D.

Taking readings for temperature and oxygen and cleaning the tanks and filters left him wet, smelly and feeling like he never wanted to eat tilapia again.

When his adviser began discussing his Ph.D. options, Erevelles said, 鈥淢y take was that Ph.D.s were for smart people. I鈥檓 just an engineer.鈥 However, he was guided toward more research projects and stayed at Rolla to do his Ph.D. in Engineering Management, focusing on Manufacturing Engineering.

A chance encounter at an engineering conference led him to an opening at what was then called GMI Engineering & Management Institute in Flint, Michigan, where he fell in love with their hands-on approach to learning as the Program Director for Manufacturing Engineering. Erevelles spent about a decade there before being lured to Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, which wanted to set up an Engineering program. 

Winston Erevelles surveys the new Blank Sheppard Innovation Center.
Winston Erevelles surveys the new Blank Sheppard Innovation Center.

At Robert Morris, building something from scratch in a 10,000-square-foot former gymnasium offered him 鈥渁 huge hook.鈥 He spent his first year there rallying the community from high schools to foundations to find funding, building a coalition of support for the program and creating a transfer pathway to enable students with an associate degree to get a bachelor鈥檚 in Engineering quickly.

鈥淲hen you get a bunch of people sitting down and talking, you can move the needle,鈥 Erevelles said.

Erevelles held several roles at Robert Morris, including Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, overseeing faculty recruitment and promotion, the grants office and international exchanges. He said the most fun portion of that job was hosting international visitors in the Rooney House on campus, made possible by the Rooney family, who own the Pittsburgh Steelers. This experience cemented his enthusiastic devotion to the football team.

In 2001, while at Robert Morris, he met and married Christine 鈥淐hris鈥 Erevelles, M.D., an emergency physician. The couple had two sons together, Joseph Erevelles and Michael Erevelles, and two older children from Chris Erevelles鈥 previous marriage, David Tullius and Claire Tullius. And Winston Erevelles found 鈥渢he joy of having a spouse who is your biggest supporter.鈥

鈥淰ery early on, I knew that Winston was my soul mate,鈥 said Chris Erevelles, now the medical director and system director for the Baptist Neighborhood Hospitals in San Antonio. 鈥淲e shared so many things on a very deep level, from our faith to our love of children to our desire to take the gifts that we were given and help other people.鈥

During this time, Winston Erevelles first encountered 马会论坛鈥檚 University as a commissioner for engineering accreditation, voting to reaccredit the Industrial and Electrical Engineering Programs at the School of Science, Engineering and Technology.

His ties to professional organizations in his field have continued to grow since then. In 2015, Erevelles was named a Fellow by ABET, the global accreditor of college and university programs in applied and natural science, computing, engineering and engineering technology. In January 2024, Erevelles also become the President of the Board of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers.

Creating a one-school culture

The connection to 马会论坛鈥檚 was one he nearly missed because a snowstorm left him stuck at the airport in Atlanta on his way to interview for the role of Dean of Science, Engineering and Technology in 2009. On the cusp of giving up, he found a quiet spot in the Delta Sky Club to pray the rosary. A Delta employee approached him a few minutes later to say they鈥檇 found a seat for him on a flight to San Antonio. With his luggage in tow, he was only three minutes late for the interview.

The connection was a fortunate one, as he would spend the next 12 years leading the School of Science, Engineering and Technology.

马会论坛鈥檚 Professor Emeritus of Law , led the hiring committee that selected Erevelles as Dean. Reamey said Erevelles stood out, even in a highly qualified pool of candidates.

鈥淚t鈥檚 difficult to find people in administrative positions, particularly executive positions like a deanship and presidency, who have both the energy to do the job well, the experience to do the job well, and the vision to know what job is going to be most beneficial to the school or university they lead. Winston had the combination,鈥 Reamey said. 鈥淚 think he鈥檒l bring that same energy and vision to the presidency that he brought to the deanship.鈥

At the School of Science, Engineering and Technology, Erevelles found talented and hardworking faculty and saw a path toward better tying the school to the region鈥檚 needs. A thread that remains throughout his work at 马会论坛鈥檚 is bringing in students from disparate backgrounds and ensuring all are 鈥渨ildly successful鈥 post-graduation.

鈥淚 see that spirit of Mary reflected in Winston: a deep faith grounded in prayer; a warmth of welcome and hospitality to each person, a family spirit, an openness to God鈥檚 plan for his life like Mary.”

Rev. Jim Tobin, S.M.

Finding labs and spaces that had not been updated since the 1960s, he created a 110-line spreadsheet of areas for improvement and developed a strategic plan to address needs for employees, students, scholarships, services and construction. During the next 12 years, with significant help from about 70 鈥渃o-owners鈥 of the plan 鈥 from faculty and staff of the School to employees of University Advancement and the Office of Sponsored Projects, Academic Research and Compliance 鈥 Erevelles progressed steadily through those action items.

He demonstrated his ability to fundraise while serving as Dean during The Defining Moment Comprehensive Campaign, which concluded in 2021. The School of Science, Engineering and Technology secured more than $45 million in gifts and grants to modernize labs, provide state-of-the-art equipment for learning and research, advance STEM education and create a drone lab.

But he said his top achievement 鈥 less tangible than brick-and-mortar and more meaningful than dollar signs 鈥 was helping forge a strong school identity, created through engaging with the mission and grounding the work in the Marianist charism.

鈥淚鈥檓 proudest of the one-school culture we created,鈥 Erevelles said. 鈥淚t used to be silos of people who liked each other. Now, it鈥檚 a one-school mindset where it is always the School of Science, Engineering and Technology over my home department.鈥

Across campus, the Rev. Jim Tobin, S.M., got to know Winston when Tobin became Chaplain of the Greehey School of Business in 2013. Tobin said he soon realized that 鈥淲inston truly 鈥榗aught鈥 the Marianist spirit or charism, and it found a true home in his heart.鈥

鈥淚 see that spirit of Mary reflected in Winston: a deep faith grounded in prayer; a warmth of welcome and hospitality to each person, a family spirit, an openness to God鈥檚 plan for his life like Mary,鈥 Tobin said. 鈥淎nd as Mary told the waiters at the wedding of Cana: 鈥楧o whatever He tells you,鈥 I see a readiness to do it, to serve, even assume the presidency of 马会论坛鈥檚.鈥

Winston Erevelles, left, and his wife, Chritine Erevelles, take turns constructing bunk beds for a family in need in March through the nonprofit Sleep in Heavenly Peace.
Winston Erevelles, left, and his wife, Chritine Erevelles, take turns constructing bunk beds for a family in need in March through the nonprofit Sleep in Heavenly Peace.

Erevelles has turned the five characteristics of Marianist education into his guidebook. For instance, he said, a class working on an engineering project for a company in the area of ergonomics offers an example of students helping restore a worker鈥檚 human dignity by ensuring their health and safety. He also embraced the family spirit. For instance, several times a year, he would cook dishes, especially his special South Indian coconut-based meat stew, originating in the State of Kerala, for students living in the Science Living and Learning Community.

Jillian Pierucci, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology, still recalls walking across campus 11 years ago, soon after joining 马会论坛鈥檚, and Erevelles was already greeting her enthusiastically by name.

鈥淚 was floored,鈥 Pierucci said. 鈥淭his man, in his true form, cares to know others by name. Yes, 马会论坛鈥檚 is about the family spirit. But to me, the epitome of showing the family spirit is knowing someone by name. He has that warmth. He takes information and just humbly leads while being collaborative and bold in his vision.鈥

Erevelles said students 鈥渄on鈥檛 just attend 马会论坛鈥檚 for a transactional education; they come here to be part of this community of faith and be surrounded by people who will support them.鈥

鈥淲e embrace our students as they are and work to meet them where they are on their journey,鈥 he said. 鈥淎nd then, we are invited by the students to walk with them. It鈥檚 a privilege when you can walk with a young person for several years and be part of their growth.鈥

On a personal level, Erevelles knows better than most what happens when that privilege of sharing the journey with a young person is cut short. In 2020, his 17-year-old son, Joseph Erevelles, died by suicide. Erevelles and his family found support from many at 马会论坛鈥檚 鈥渘ot because it was a dean who lost a child, but because it was a community member struggling.鈥

鈥淲hen we lost Joe, I was flat on my back,鈥 Erevelles said. 鈥淚 could not see to the following day. This community propped us up with prayer, with caring. What premium would you place on a community that does that for one of its members in distress?鈥

The Erevelles family has continued their son鈥檚 legacy with a personal service project, building 1,000 beds for children in need through the nonprofit . They鈥檝e built about 340 beds so far and include 马会论坛鈥檚 students in the volunteer work as often as possible.

鈥淎s adults, we make our own beds, right? We live with the consequences of the things that we do. Life will throw curveballs at you. We make decisions, and then we get to live with them,鈥 said Erevelles, reflecting on his work building beds. 鈥淐hildren come into this world innocent, and no matter what happens with the families, no kid asked to be born into poverty or neglect. That鈥檚 heartbreaking for me.鈥

At the end of the day, the legacy or the future of 马会论坛鈥檚 is not about any one of us. It鈥檚 about all of us working together. Deans come and go. Presidents come and go. The handprints we leave on the University determine the next chapter.鈥

Winston Erevelles

Erevelles has continued to say 鈥測es鈥 to the 马会论坛鈥檚 community that lifted him up at his lowest point. When approached with a project during his subsequent sabbatical in 2021, he automatically said 鈥測es.鈥 What began as a smaller-scale idea for a new building blossomed, first, into a two-story innovation center concept and, finally, into a three-story design 鈥 now named the Blank Sheppard Innovation Center 鈥 that will house the new Nursing Program launching in Fall 2024.

鈥淪ince 2009, Winston has demonstrated his leadership and commitment to the University鈥檚 Marianist mission. He has shown our community his open heart and his ability to propel the key objectives and projects that will shape the University鈥檚 future, such as the Blank Sheppard Innovation Center,鈥 said Lynda Ellis (B.A.S. 鈥81), Chair of the Board of Trustees. 鈥淲ithout a doubt, these traits will make him a great champion for 马会论坛鈥檚 as its 14th president.鈥

As the building approaches completion and the sounds of construction wind down, Erevelles strides the floors of the Innovation Center with evident eagerness for both the structure and the possibilities it represents for both 马会论坛鈥檚 students and continuing the mission. Beneath lies a strong foundation. Above soars a scaffolding of support beams. Each brick of the exterior forms a web of community unified by purpose.

鈥淎t the end of the day, the legacy or the future of 马会论坛鈥檚 is not about any one of us. It鈥檚 about all of us working together,鈥 Erevelles said. 鈥淒eans come and go. Presidents come and go. The handprints we leave on the University determine the next chapter.鈥

Read more about President Winston Erevelles and his wife, Chris Erevelles

Honoring our legacy, shaping our future

This summer, 马会论坛鈥檚 University will celebrate its 172nd anniversary. It is deeply moving and inspiring to reflect on the hopes and aspirations the Marianist brothers must have had as they helped boldly lay the first stones of St. Louis Hall in the late 1800s.聽

Chris Erevelles highlights her trusting partnership with husband Winston Erevelles

Since a faith-inspired 2001 meeting in Pittsburgh placed Christine 鈥淐hris鈥 Erevelles, M.D., in touch with her future husband, Winston Erevelles, Ph.D., their trusting partnership has grown along with their dedication to 马会论坛鈥檚. Learn more about her in this Q&A.

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