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Alumni and Friends

Paper Science Alumni Establishes Scholarship to Honor Mother

Afternoon sunlight streams through the fall foliage at Wolf Plaza.
Photo by Becky Kirkland

Ask Ed Melton what made him such a successful graduate of the College of Natural Resources and he’ll credit his professors, the tools they gave him to create a life in the pulp and paper industry, and the bonds formed with his NC State classmates. Mostly, though, he’ll thank his mom.

Melton, Pulp and Paper Science and Technology class of 1977, has long wanted to find a way to thank the woman who worked so hard to make sure he got an education. So Melton and his wife, Judy, have endowed the Frances Melton scholarship for students majoring in paper science and engineering.

“She doesn’t know yet that I’ve done this,” Ed said with a sly smile. “I’ll show her the plaque when we head to see her in Georgia for her birthday in September.”

Even then, Ed said, it won’t come close to giving back what she has given him, his family and all who know her. “She’s the kind of lady who has always been selfless. She has had lots of challenges in her life, but she has always done for others first.”

As a child, Frances Melton won a battle against a cancer growing on her foot. Local doctors wanted to remove the foot, but her father refused and instead got her into the Shriner’s hospital in Atlanta, where the surgeons successfully removed the cancer.

The recovery and grafts left Frances with both legs in casts for six weeks. Today, one of her feet is a half-size smaller than the other. However, according to Ed, Frances happily talks about running to meet her mother when she came to Atlanta to take her home.

Married at 16 and a mother at 19, Frances raised three children and sent them off to school. While they learned, so did she — she trained as a nurse’s aide and worked at the local hospital until she retired at 65. But Frances didn’t stop working. She went to work in elder care for years and retired just a year ago at the age of 85. She still lives in Waycross, Georgia, just a few miles from where she was born.

“She has always been the one that when anyone you know — whether family or not — gets sick, they call her. She has always been the caretaker. She talks of others a great deal, specifically about my dad … he’s gone now but she’ll talk about him and what a great guy he was.  But you never hear her speak much about herself, she has always put others first,” Ed said.

In making this gift, Ed fulfills another dream. He wants to be there for other students who couldn’t go to college without scholarship help. After all, he couldn’t have gone without a scholarship, himself. He knows what it means to students in need to get a financial bump.

Ed still heads to work every day from the home he shares in Forest, Virginia, with his wife Judy. He retired from West Rock, the nation’s second largest packaging company, and took a job through a friend at T5 Group LLC, where he works as vice president of operations. He had intended only to work a couple of years after retirement, he said, but he likes the work too much to give it up just yet. 

Ultimately, Ed said he hopes recipients of his scholarship will feel what he still feels about his alma mater, all these years later. He tells stories of his friends who would trek together across campus to get to Professor Roger’s 8 a.m. class — if you arrived a minute late, you were not allowed in. The professor took pity on the class and would let them out at 8:50 a.m. so they had a chance of getting to their next course across campus on time.

Those friendships and the work the students did together formed Ed’s future path. “I hope the students who receive this scholarship will know that they can do good for themselves, that they have it in them to improve their lot in life,” he said. “NC State gave me a good life. I wish the same for them.”

This article was written by Beth Grace for the College of Natural Resources.