St. Cloud State University has received a principal gift from Bennett D. Melin ’63 to provide both the University’s and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system’s first-ever endowed university level speaker series. In recognition of his gift, the series will be named the Bennett D. Melin Family University Speakers Series.
Announced publicly April 28, the Bennett D. Melin Family University Speakers Series has been established to bring publicly recognizable thought leaders from the arts, humanities, sciences, business, religion, politics, health and human services, education and other relevant areas of contemporary society to the St. Cloud State campus for the purpose of engaging students, faculty, staff and the Greater Central Minnesota community in thoughtful conversation and reflection.
“Bennett’s gift represents a historical milestone for St. Cloud State,” said Matt Andrew, Vice President of University Advancement and Executive Director of the St. Cloud State Foundation. “With this gift, St. Cloud State will join the proud tradition of universities all across the U.S. who enrich the experiences of their students by bringing thoughtful and engaging thought leaders to their campuses from across the country and around the globe.”
“As we implement our It’s Time vision that seeks to make St. Cloud State academically distinct, I am excited by the prospect of Bennett’s gift bringing a wonderfully vibrant dimension to our university,” said Dr. Robbyn Wacker, President of St. Cloud State. “Bringing innovative and renown thought leaders to campus to foster dialogue, cultivate enriching ideas, and continue an appreciation of learning as an active and lifelong process is a gift to our campus community and the entire Central Minnesota region.”
Melin said his hope is that the speaker series will help students to think more globally. Raised by parents who taught their children to accept all people with respect and dignity, Melin has upheld this belief throughout his life as he has worked, studied and traveled extensively throughout all seven continents. He graduated from St. Cloud State University in 1963 with majors in history and geography. He began his international travels by independently visiting countries throughout the Middle East and what was then the Soviet Union. Melin drove himself through many of the countries he visited, including the USSR, Syria, Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. In 1967 he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to India and, after an exhaustive study throughout the entire country, the program was concluded with a meeting and afternoon tea with then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. In 1969 he began his first international work assignment in Vientiane, Laos, and in 1971 he started in the oil industry in Southeast Asia, where he worked for the next 20 years. He then accepted work assignments in several African and South American countries until his retirement in 2007.
Meeting and working with “citizens of the world” for nearly 60 years, Melin said his respect and acceptance of international cultures has only grown and matured. He sometimes worries Americans don’t think globally enough, and tend to forget the U.S. population only accounts for about 4.25 percent of the global population.
“I think everybody wants to leave something behind,” Melin said of his decision to endow the speaker series.
He hopes the speaker series will continue on for decades, and that it will bring international voices to campus and encourage audiences to learn as much as possible about the world and all its different cultures.
Melin’s gift to the University arrives during the St. Cloud State Foundation’s “Unleash the Future” campaign, which to date has raised $37 million — 15 percent more than its initial goal. For more about the campaign, visit unleashthefuture.stcloudstate.edu.