Patricia Melton went from being a first-generation college student to helping thousands of young people in the same position gain access to post-secondary education as well as the resources necessary to succeed after graduation. For her innovative work in education, Melton has been selected by the CoSIDA Executive Board of Directors as the 2022 Dick Enberg Award recipient.
The Dick Enberg Award is presented by the College Sports Information Directors of America annually to an individual who has distinguished themselves nationally through career achievements and meaningful contributions to society while promoting the values of education and academics.
The list of awardees is a Who’s Who of American sports history with the likes of Gerald Ford, Billie Jean King, Mike Krzyzewski, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Dean Smith, Andre Agassi, Bill Russell, Roger Staubach, Pat Summitt and more.
“The work Patricia Melton has done giving back to communities through innovative educational programs and her personal success story as a first-generation college student and record-setting student-athlete are exactly what Dick Enberg supported and promoted throughout his life,” said Cindy Potter, senior deputy director of athletics at Columbia College and 2021-22 CoSIDA president. “While there are always strong candidates for this award, I don’t think we could have selected someone whose resume is more tailor-made for the honor.”
As the president of New Haven Promise, Melton has overseen the disbursement of more than $25 million to more than 2,200 city students in the last 10 years. Those students have largely been first-generation, low-income students of color, just as she had been in her hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. Knowing that college completion alone is not enough to secure the mission of the Yale-funded initiative, Melton established career and civic launch programs to assist students in securing nearly 1,000 paid internships and full-time positions in the region to date.
The program has fortified enrollment in the public school system in New Haven and increased four-year degree attainment dramatically. The Obama White House cited Promise and its peer mentoring efforts as a “promising practice.”
Throughout her career, Melton’s initiatives have impacted tens of thousands of students. Prior to returning to Connecticut, she helped create several small-school design teams, which resulted in nine Early College High Schools throughout Ohio and Indiana. She contributed to Vincennes University’s early college replication effort, assisting with the startup of four early college sites across Indiana.
She served as the chief academic officer for the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation, Indiana’s third-largest school district. She led the district through a sweeping transformation, implementing new strategies using a distributed leadership model. The year after she implemented new strategies, that district met the standards of the No Child Left Behind Adequate Yearly Progress for the first time.
Early in her career, Melton served on the Seattle Organizing Committee for the Goodwill Games and helped to create the African American Academy, a culturally-themed small school in Seattle.
The first in her family to attend college, she earned a bachelor’s degree at Yale University and a master’s degree at Arizona State University. She also served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve while a student at Yale.
A track and field walk-on in college, Melton is a former U.S. Olympic trials finalist and track and field All-American. A seven-time Ivy League champion and captain of her team, as a sprinter, she moved to the 400-meter hurdles late in her college career and finished second at the national championships. She was bestowed the highest athletic honor in her Yale undergraduate class, the Nellie Elliott Award, in 1982. Her top 400-meter hurdle time remains the Yale school record after 40 years and was the Ivy League record for nearly two decades before being bettered by Olympian Brenda Taylor.
Melton would continue her track career, in a new event, after college. In 1988, she was a finalist in the 800-meter run at the U.S. Olympic Trials, finishing just shy of qualifying for the United States at the Seoul Olympics.
In 2007, she received the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Silver Anniversary Award, which recognizes former student-athletes who have distinguished themselves in their chosen field. In 2013, she became the first African-American woman to be awarded Yale University’s George H. W. Bush Award.
“Ms. Melton, a distinguished Yale College graduate, has dedicated her career to helping young people in our community,” said Yale President Peter Salovey, who is also the chair of the board for New Haven Promise. “The Dick Enberg Award is richly deserved and comes as no surprise to all of us at Yale who have long taken pride in her exceptional achievements.”
Melton embraces commitment to her community through service on a number of nonprofit boards, including Yale’s Alumni Board of Governors, the Shubert Theatre, the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce, Middlesex School, Site Projects and Squash Haven, an urban squash program.
Melton has recently been recognized by the local business community for the impact of her organization in the region’s workforce. New Haven Biz included her in the Power 25 with business leaders, college presidents and elected officials.
Melton is the 26th Enberg Award recipient. She will be recognized, along with the CoSIDA Academic All-America Hall of Fame® Class of 2022, in a luncheon June 28 at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas during the CoSIDA Convention.