Remembering Mel Tyler

Champion for students at UMKC for 25 years

Mel Tyler, recently retired as vice chancellor for student affairs at UMKC, died Sept. 15 after battling cancer for a decade. He was 62.

As vice chancellor since 2007, Mel had been the point person for accomplishing the first of UMKC’s strategic goals: placing student success at the center.

For decades, Mel had been a thoughtful, caring mentor of students who needed guidance and direction, and those who needed to know that their voices were being heard. He had been a part of the UMKC family since 1993. He progressed from director of admissions, to associate vice chancellor, to vice chancellor for student affairs and enrollment management. The titles changed and the responsibilities grew, but the mission and the goal were always the same: To make a positive difference in young people’s lives.

“Mel Tyler dedicated his life to helping young people succeed in school and in life,” said Leo E. Morton, chancellor emeritus of UMKC. “He changed people’s lives for the better, and that’s an impact that lasts for generations. I am proud to have known him and worked with him.”

UMKC Chancellor C. Mauli Agrawal, Ph.D., said that while his time and Mel’s at UMKC intersected only briefly, Mel’s impact on UMKC’s Division of Student Affairs remains powerful.

“UMKC has a team of dedicated professionals who demonstrate on a daily basis that their concern for student welfare and student success is strong, deep and genuine,” Agrawal said. “From all I have heard, Mel Tyler modeled that commitment to help students succeed and expected it of all who worked for him.”

As a leader, Tyler was both taskmaster and mentor. He demanded professionalism, excellence and dedication from his people; and he taught and inspired them to deliver it.

“Mel was one of the most student-centered people I know. Countless students and professionals can point to the support they got from Mel somewhere along their journey as having made a positive impact on their lives,” said Jennifer DeHaemers, associate chancellor for enrollment management at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. She served as associate vice chancellor under Mel at UMKC for several years. “He was a boss, friend, mentor and teacher. He provided wise counsel. He did not frequently praise people but you knew he had your back. I knew from the way he continued to ‘coach’ me that he hadn’t given up on me.”

Mel’s professional recognitions include receiving the Dr. Joseph Seabrooks Jr. Leadership Award from The African American Student Union (TAASU) in 2015; the ACE Award from the Diversity Business Connection Advisory Board of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce in 2012; and the Distinguished Alumni Award from Northwest Missouri State University in 2009.

Survivors include his wife of 35 years, Deatra; daughter, Angela Tyler; grandchildren, Javon and Desirae Jackson; brother, Vincent Brown; sisters, Deborah Murray, Shelia Tyler, Valencia Long (Ivory), Tammy Wallace; aunt, Henry Lee Sherels; numerous nieces and nephews. His full obituary and service details are available at

Farewell Services are scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Francis Baptist Temple, 1610 Angelique St., St Joseph, Missouri. The family will gather with friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at Meierhoffer Funeral Home, 5005 Frederick Blvd., St. Joseph. In lieu of flowers the family request memorial donations to the Melvin C. Tyler Scholarship Program, UMKC Foundation Office, Administrative Center 202, 5115 Oak Street, Kansas City, MO 64112 or go.umkc/edu/give.

The UMKC community offered a salute to Mel at one of his last official functions at UMKC – the spring 2018 Vice Chancellor’s Honors Breakfast.

At the event, Obie Austin, student health administrator for UMKC Student Health and Wellness, offered a tribute to Mel.

“When I was a young man who needed direction and guidance, Mel Tyler was there for me. This morning, we recognize that hundreds of people could, and would, say the same thing. And there are thousands more young people whose direction in life has been altered for the better because of Mel’s leadership,” Austin said at the event. “Mel has been enormously successful in that mission. I am living proof of that. And I am not even the only person in this room who can say that.”

Austin said Mel “is one of those rare and vital individuals who can be effective as both a mentor and an authority figure.”

“He could be your best friend, but he was the kind of friend who challenged you to be your best self,” Austin said. “His expectations were high, and he helped you gain the confidence and resolve to meet those expectations.”

Austin also announced the establishment of the Melvin C. Tyler Scholarship Program, a need-based, fully endowed financial aid program endowed by the UMKC Alumni Association Governing Board that ensures that Mel will always be, what he had always been – a difference maker.

| Article by John Martellaro, Strategic Marketing and Communications

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