Jerry Meldon, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering, Dies

A longtime faculty member, Meldon is remembered for his empathy, humor and passion
July 20, 2017

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Jerry Meldon, an associate professor of chemical engineering and a Tufts faculty member since 1978, died on Tuesday when he drowned while swimming in a lake in North Carolina. He was 69.

Jianmin Qu, dean of the School of Engineering, said Meldon was “a great asset to the university and had a profound impact on the students he taught throughout his 40-year career at Tufts. He will be greatly missed by many students, colleagues, alumni and staff.”

Meldon, who received the Henry and Madeline Fischer Award for engineering teacher of the year in 2010, was remembered by colleagues and former students as a brilliant instructor who knew his subject matter inside and out. Professor Kyongbum Lee, the chair of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, said Meldon was one of the few faculty members who could teach the whole discipline. “He sort of did it all,” he said.Jerry Meldon

At faculty meetings, Meldon would often advocate for giving students a strong foundation in chemical engineering basics before they could branch off into newer disciplines. Some of those courses, such as thermodynamics or fluid dynamics and heat transfer, were among the most challenging undergraduate courses at the school. But he was also empathetic, Lee said. “He used to go out of his way to give his students chances to do well.”

Beth Frasso, who worked with Meldon for 12 years as a department administrator, said Meldon always made time for students and was interested in their careers. “He would try to help people make contacts—I know that was important to him,” she said. She recalled him as a great storyteller, whether he was sharing tales of colorful colleagues or reminiscing about his days as a post doc in the physiology department at Odense University in Denmark. “Every now and then he would go to the Danish Pastry House and bring us a kringle,” Frasso said. “Many people liked his dry sense of humor. Students often remarked upon it and I know I appreciated it very much.”

Nyasha Madziva was a student in the math course Meldon taught for chemical engineers. “He taught it in a super-intelligent way,” Madziva said. “Some of it got over your head sometimes, but he was funny in his approach and very thorough. I got back confidence in my math ability.” So much so that she asked Meldon to be her advisor for her master’s thesis, which she completed in May. In all, Meldon advised 47 master’s and doctoral students at Tufts.

Meldon received his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Cooper Union and his doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He served on the advisory board of the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts. 

He leaves his wife, Robin, and his children, James, Seth and Perri, A13.

The funeral is scheduled for Monday, July 24, at 11 a.m. at Pine Grove Cemetery in Westboro, Massachusetts. Rabbi Jeffrey Summit of Tufts University will officiate the ceremony. All are welcome to attend and celebrate Jerry's life. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Trustees of Reservations or the American Civil Liberties Union. The family will be sitting shiva on Monday, July 24, from 2 to 5 p.m., and on Tuesday, July 25, and Wednesday, July 26, from 5 to 9 p.m. For information on sitting shiva and condolences, please email JerryMeldonMemorial@gmail.com.

Julie Flaherty can be reached at julie.flaherty@tufts.edu.

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