Students, colleagues remember Mel Tyler

Mel Tyler, former vice chancellor of student affairs, died on Sept. 15 after a decades long battle against cancer.

Tyler, 65, served as  vice chancellor from 2007 until his retirement in May of 2018. As vice chancellor, his job was to ensure students’, academic, economic and personal success.

“His commitment to student welfare was powerful,” said UMKC Director of Public Relations John Martellaro, “he touched many, many lives in a deep and significant way.”

Tyler was well known for his commitment to excellence in his own work, and also in the work of those around him.

“It takes a lot of people to make a university run, improve, grow,” said Jennifer DeHaemers, associate chancellor for enrollment management at Southern Illinois University and former associate vice chancellor at UMKC under Tyler. “The UMKC of today can point to the work of Mel and the people he employed, lead, mentored and developed for the progress that’s been made there over the years. He was one of a kind.”

Tyler’s unique character is what made him such a pillar in the lives of those he took under his wing.

His commitment to both of those roles earned him several awards during his career, including the Dr. Joseph Seabrooks Jr. Leadership Award from The African American Student Union and the ACE Award from the Diversity Business Connection Advisory Board of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.

When former UMKC chancellor, Leo Morton, nominated Tyler for the ACE Award in 2013, he had this to say about his colleague.

“When you think about what a university does, we’re all about serving students and I can’t think of anyone who’s a greater advocate for students than Mel Tyler is.”

From the mentorship of Tyler, students have reached great heights.

“When I was a young man who needed direction and guidance, Mel Tyler was there for me,” said former UMKC student and current Assistant Clinical Professor of Nursing at Graceland University, Obie Austin about Tyler’s commitment to students. “Mel has been very successful in that mission. I am living proof of that.”

The components to Tyler’s success were quite simple. He believed in honest, direct communication and trust.

“I think good leaders also have to be good listeners,” Tyler said while responding to his ACE Award nomination.

The spirit of Tyler’s commitment to the welfare of others lives on not only in the Melvin C. Tyler Scholarship Program, a need based financial aid program, but also in the commitment he inspired in those around him.

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