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A meeting of two extraordinary minds: Ron and Anne Mellor

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Ron and Anne Mellor.
Two prominent faculty members in the College of Letters and Science cemented their combined 65-year legacy of distinction at UCLA by making a joint testamentary pledge of $1 million, to be divided between the English and history departments.

Anne Mellor, distinguished research professor of English, and her husband, Ron Mellor, distinguished professor emeritus and former chair of the history department, recently established endowments for graduate student fellowships in their home departments as well as the Ronald and Anne Mellor Endowed Educational Fund, which will provide resources for visiting lecturers, summer travel-study opportunities and new acquisitions for UCLA’s special library collections.

“We are immensely grateful for this generous gift from Ron and Anne Mellor, two of our most beloved and accomplished faculty,” said Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Scott Waugh. “It demonstrates their confidence in the institution where they have already invested so much professionally and personally, and shows a clear understanding of UCLA’s need for philanthropic support.”

Anne Mellor is credited with creating and shaping the scholarly field of 18th- and 19th-century British women’s literature; she is also an eminent scholar of feminist theory and the visual arts. She received her B.A. in philosophy from Brown University and her master’s and doctoral degrees in English and comparative literature from Columbia University.

She joined the UCLA English faculty in 1985 and played a pivotal role in establishing women’s studies as an academic discipline at the university. In 1996, she developed the first anthology of British Romantic-era writing that contained as much work by women as by men. This canon-transforming work has since become the basis of many of the courses taught in America in this field.

Anne said, “I feel blessed to have had a career in which I’ve been paid to do what I love: reading novels, poems, plays, looking at art, listening to classical music, travelling around the world and sharing my enthusiasm with others.” Of the gift to the English department, she said, “I felt strongly about helping the department beef up recruitment packages to make sure the best graduate students come here.”

David Schaberg, dean of the Division of Humanities, said, “The gift is a testament to Anne Mellor’s dedication to her students, to her faith in the university and to her extraordinary intellect.”

Ali Behdad, professor of English and comparative literature and chair of the English department, said, “Anne has always shown an unwavering commitment to teaching and mentoring, so I was not at all surprised that she decided to support graduate students. We are all very grateful that Anne has chosen to give back in this way.”

The other half of this brilliant duo, Ron Mellor, is regarded as one of the world’s foremost experts on ancient religion and Roman historiography. He was the first in his family to graduate from high school, and later studied classics and philosophy at the University of Louvain in Belgium and Fordham University. He earned his doctorate in classics from Princeton University and began teaching at UCLA in 1976.

For many years he led UCLA student travel-study courses in Rome, and he continues to lead alumni tours to destinations worldwide, including Slovenia, Sicily, Turkey, France and the Western Mediterranean. As chair of the history department in the 1990s, Ron was among the first faculty leaders to initiate extramural fundraising efforts, recognizing that private support was increasingly vital to UCLA’s continued excellence.
 
He noted that the department needed to increase financial support to graduate students, in particular: “Graduate students are central to the whole research enterprise. If you don’t have good graduate students, you cannot keep good faculty. They are what make a real research university tick.”

Alessandro Duranti, dean of the Division of Social Sciences, said, “Ron Mellor’s remarkable gift caps a career of visionary academic leadership, exceptional scholarship and teaching that have helped make UCLA’s history department one of the best in the country.”
 
Wedding.
Anne and Ron Mellor on their wedding day, June 7, 1969.
David N. Myers, professor and chair of the history department, said, “A gift such as this is so profoundly affirming of what we do. Ron and Anne have given six and a half decades of their combined lives to UCLA. At the point of retirement, rather than bid us farewell, they give even more of themselves back to this institution: a remarkable example that we should all emulate.”
 
Ron and Anne met on a blind date while both were teaching at Stanford. A photo taken on their wedding day depicts a scene straight out of the Swingin' 60s with Anne in a mini-dress she sewed for the occasion, and Ron in a velvet jacket made by Mick Jagger’s tailor. Although their shared passion for teaching and research first brought them together, they continue to discover areas where their scholarly interests intersect. Ron said, “Many 18th- and 19th-century British writers were greatly influenced by Roman architecture and sculpture as a result of their European travels.” Anne added, “Even now when we travel abroad, we are always excited to show each other sites of historical and literary importance.”

Ron retired from full-time teaching in February, followed by Anne in June. Fortunately for UCLA students, they will both continue to teach part-time. And retirement does not mean they will be content to rest on their scholarly laurels. Ron has ambitious plans to write a book on the entire history of Rome, and Anne has a long list of novels waiting to be explored and analyzed. She says she might even take up painting. They are also looking forward to traveling and spending more time with their grandchildren, ages 2 and 4.
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Adapted from a story in the Winter 2014 UCLA College Report.
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