Ernest O. Melby - 1941-1945

Ernest O. Melby

October 1941 - August 1945

"The function of an administrator in a university is to create the conditions for the fullest release of creative talent on the part of the individual faculty members and the students."


  • B.A., St. Olaf's College, 1913
  • M.A., University of Minnesota, 1926
  • Ph.D., University of Minnesota, 1928

Accomplishments as President

While President, Melby faced problems due not only to lack of funds, but also to the start of WWII. Male student enrollment dropped and military organizations began arriving on campus. Over 1,000 trainees of the Army Air Force moved into UM residence halls, with the Army picking up the bill for use of dormitories and the campus. In addition, several Army officials agreed to teach courses, replacing faculty members who had joined the war effort. The war permeated all aspects of University life; course matter was adapted to the growing interest in U.S. international relations, and the trainees had a large influence on student activities. Despite the difficulties, Melby continued all of the UM schools. He also restored faculty sabbatical leaves and improved the retirement system.

Background History

After receiving his doctorate, Melby remained in Minnesota to teach high school. He became principal and, finally, Superintendent of Schools. He moved into college education as a professor in education at the University of Minnesota. Before moving to Montana, Melby also taught at Northwestern University, where he was eventually promoted to Dean of Education.

Following the Presidency

Melby left The University of Montana to pursue a teaching career at the University of New York. In 1956, he became a professor at Michigan State University, where he remained for 20 years. He then assumed a position at Florida Atlantic University, where a fellowship named for him now provides $10,000 per year for doctoral studies in education. Melby died in 1987 at the age of 96.

Ernest O. Melby

Landmarks Erected

  • The Lubrecht Experimental Forest, 1942

Programs Established

  • The Navy V-1 and the Civilian Pilot Training Programs
  • The Montana Study