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MC-Mellinger connection

Barry McNamara
09/20/2010
Most students who use Monmouth College’s Mellinger Teaching and Learning Center – and its 24-hour computer lab – give little thought to the significance of its name.

However, more than 10 percent of Monmouth students are very familiar with the Mellinger name because of the scholarship assistance they receive from the Monmouth-based Mellinger Foundation.

Each year, the foundation, which was founded in 1959 in memory of telephone communications pioneer Edward A. Mellinger, awards approximately $750,000 in scholarships to students from Warren County and the five counties that border it. Nearly 1,000 students are benefiting from that assistance this academic year, including 138 who are enrolled at Monmouth College.

Tom Johnson, a longtime member of the Mellinger Foundation board who now serves as the organization’s president, explained that a scholarship committee composed primarily of local community leaders does an annual review of applications. The committee includes Johnson, Daniel Kistler, Gary Martin, Mary Frances Miller and Gary Willhardt, as well as a representative from the Bank of America, which oversees the foundation’s assets.

“The students must be attending an accredited college,” said Johnson. “We then weight two other factors equally – the applicant’s academic merit and their financial need.”

Although exact totals are unavailable, Johnson said the Mellinger Foundation’s contributions to students is “up in the millions” of dollars, quite possibly in the neighborhood of $30 million since the foundation was incorporated.

The founder, Inez Mellinger Hensleigh, directed that the foundation be created in memory of her brother. She stipulated that the foundation’s income be used for educational purposes, including provision of financial assistance for deserving American students to attend accredited schools within the U.S.

In addition to scholarships, the foundation makes grants to qualified charitable organizations for educational purposes. That is how Monmouth College came to receive a $600,000 grant to support the renovation of the former Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house to become the Mellinger Teaching and Learning Center.

Hensleigh enlisted the assistance of Robert J. Clendenin, Sr., an attorney, and Lloyd C. Stevenson, a certified public accountant, to create the foundation. They served as president and secretary-treasurer, respectively, from the date of incorporation until 1981. When Clendenin retired, Stevenson succeeded him as president and treasurer. Clendenin died in 1983, and Stevenson, who became president emeritus in January of 1986, died in 1992. Upon the deaths of Clendenin and Stevenson, the foundation gave Monmouth College $250,000 to award scholarships in their honor.

The late David Fleming, a 1946 Monmouth College graduate, served as president of the foundation for 20 years and was instrumental in assisting with the grant that led to the creation of the Mellinger Teaching and Learning Center.

Since that time, the Mellinger Foundation has provided two $1 million gifts to the college – one that helped with the renovation of the Dahl Chapel and Auditorium, and another that allowed the college to develop architectural specifications and drawings for its planned academic complex.

Johnson succeeded Fleming as president in 2006. His day-to-day staff at the foundation’s 1025 E. Broadway location includes Lynn McVey, Sherry Moore and Jackie Watson.