OLLU president to retire in 2022; touts success of La Feria campus

Diane Melby

Diane Melby, Ed.D., president of Our Lady of the Lake University, announced Thursday her intention to retire at the end of July 2022.

She said she wanted to announce her retirement early to allow plenty of time to find her replacement.

OLLU has a campus in La Feria and is the only Catholic university in the Rio Grande Valley.

When she assumed office in July 2015, Melby pledged to uphold the charism of OLLU’s founders, the Sisters of the Congregation of Divine Providence, while leading the university into a “new age.”

Upon her arrival, Melby said she would lead OLLU for six or seven years, retire and return to the family home in Virginia with her husband, David Melby.

“In my 43-year career, I had often missed out on family time to attend to the needs of work,” Melby said. “I did so only because I had Dave. Not only did he tend to our children, he stepped up to help my siblings and parents whenever they needed support. I will be forever grateful to him for all the experiences that he was able to provide our girls, even when the responsibility of those experiences was solely his,” she said.

Before arriving at OLLU, Dr. Melby served as Vice President for Advancement at Shepherd University in West Virginia and Dean of the School of Continuing Education at Shenandoah University in Virginia.

Since succeeding Sister Jane Ann Slater as the ninth president of OLLU, Melby has overseen growth in freshman enrollment and retention, a $5 million increase in the endowment, the expansion of online programs and the acquisition of property to build a $7 million Center for Children and Family, according to a press release.

In spite of COVID-19, OLLU has avoided involuntary layoffs.

“It is a huge honor to serve San Antonio and La Feria and the Rio Grande Valley. It is such a growing and dynamic area and a part of the country where our policies and educational institutions can really make a difference. It has been an invigorating experience,” she said.

Melby has visited the La Feria campus several times and said the campus has grown thanks to the support from the city government.

The campus was hosted by the La Feria Independent School District and said a previous superintendent was an essential element for the startup of the campus.

Melby thanked current city managers for their help in developing the campus and making it known to the community.

“They have been so supportive of the campus. And we were the first Catholic university in the Rio Grande Valley, and it has been one of the main attractions of the people of La Feria, not only having the ability to obtain higher education with professional and individual growth but with spirituality, too,” she said.

Melby said the campus is always looking into new ways to adapt to the necessities of its communities, and with COVID-19, the campus had to make some changes. Before vaccination, in person classes were not an idea but now they are considering getting back to it, she said.

Melby is excited for new leadership to come with new vision and new ideas to construct the workplace after working and studying remotely.

“What will our in-person classes look like, for example, etc. Personally, I am ready to focus on my family. I have a third grandchild on the way, and it is time to focus on my personal growth,” she said.

Melby said La Feria is a special place and said much of what the U.S. is going to be is already in the RGV. She said she wants her successor to strengthen the La Feria campus and improve its services.

“It is both an honor and vital to the growth of the RGV. It is a two way street, and it is important to be involved down there,” she said.

Over the next 14 months, Dr. Melby will focus on fundraising, capital improvement projects and advancing on-going initiatives.

She will support the Board of Trustees as OLLU transitions to a new president, she said.

Read Diane Melby’s retirement letter below: