Notable Figures

Ernest O. Melby

COE Ernest Oscar Melby (August 16, 1891 – January 11, 1987) was a professor, dean, and university president.

Ernest Oscar Melby was born in Lake Park, Minnesota, the son of Ole Hanson and Ellen Stakke Melby. Melby received his B.A. from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota in 1913. He attended graduate school at the University of Minnesota to receive his masters and Ph.D. He married Aurora Herbert on December 29, 1914. Aurora and Ernest Melby met in Alexandria, Minnesota, when he was a physics teacher. They had one child, Stanley Herbert Melby.

Melby began his career as a high school teacher and principal in Minnesota before serving for nine years as the superintendent of schools in Long Prairie, Black Duck and Brewster, Minnesota. He served as a schools superintendent. In 1928, he was appointed Assistant Professor of Education at Northwestern University, where he conducted prolific research on the administration of several Illinois school districts, the results of which were published in 1929 and 1930. As a result, he was rapidly promoted to associate professor and professor. In 1934, he was named Dean of the School of Education at Northwestern, a position he held until 1941 when his antagonistic relationship with University President Franklyn Bliss Snyder deteriorated to the point where Melby resigned.

Melby assumed the presidency of Montana State University, a post he held from 1941 to 1943 and from 1944 to 1945. In 1943, he was Chancellor of the University of Montana. From 1945 to 1956, Melby served as Dean of the School of Education (now Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development) at New York University.

Dr. Melby joined the faculty of the College of Education at Michigan State University in 1956 following his retirement as dean of the College of Education at New York University. Originally intending to stay for just one year, he worked for 19 years prior to his retirement from Michigan State University in 1975.

In 1975, Dr. Melby accepted a distinguished professorship at Florida Atlantic University where he founded and served as consultant to Florida Atlantic University’s Center for Community Education. Ernest O. Melby also served as special consultant to the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

Major works:

  • American Education Is in Danger (ADL Bulletin, May 1951)
  • American Education under Fire: The Story of the 'Phony Three-R Fight (The New York Times Magazine September 23, 1951)
  • Administering Community Education (Prentice-Hall. 1955)
  • The Role of the School in Community Education (Pendell Publishing Company. 1969)

Ernest O. and Aurora H. Melby Endowed Fellowship

The Ernest O. and Aurora H. Melby Endowed Fellowship was established through the estates of Ernest and Aurora Melby in 1994 following the death of Aurora Melby at 102 years of age. The fellowship is designated for students in the Department of Educational Administration at Michigan State University.


Marge Pearlson and husband were major contributors to community education and Melby Center.

Ernest O. Melby Community Education Center

The Ernest O. Melby Community Education Center in the College of Education was founded in 1967. During its history, the center has played an important role in the development of creative and innovative solutions to many of the issues and problems that face communities. This role has been accomplished through the sponsorship of conferences and workshops, graduate courses, provision of consultant services, facilitation of interagency efforts, and the development and distribution of printed materials. The center is playing an active role in helping to address the issues that are dramatically impacting Florida and its respective communities including youth at-risk, school-age child care, crime, health and education.