Dr. Melvin G. Scarlett of Murfreesboro, who served Middle Tennessee State University as president from 1969 until 1978, died April 16 at age 91.
While at MTSU, Scarlett was the driving force behind the creation of the University Honors and recording industry programs, as well as the communications department, and was named the Aerospace Educator of the Year.
He also traveled with architects to tour facilities throughout the nation before construction of Murphy Center, the state-of-the-art multi-purpose athletic facility that remains a campus showpiece. At MTSU, Scarlett gave students a greater voice in campus governance and, through thoughtful communication, avoided the unrest plaguing many other universities during the turbulent 1960s and early ’70s.
“Dr. Scarlett brought about indelible, positive change during his years as MTSU president,” said current University President Sidney A. McPhee. “He will be remembered in the history of our University for his vision, foresight and leadership.”
Scarlett, who held the title of MTSU’s president emeritus, continued his contribution to higher education during his retirement through his authorship of The Great Rip-Off in American Education: Undergrads Underserved and a separate volume on his tenure at MTSU.
According to his obituary, apart from his family, Scarlett had three lifelong passions: great music, great humor and great baseball.
“He was a moral man, a generous man and a man who worked hard for everything he got,” the obituary from his family said. “He was deeply loved and will be deeply missed.”
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Creekside at Three Rivers or the Alzheimer’s Foundation.
Born Dec. 30, 1920, in Reading, Pa., Scarlett was preceded in death by his parents, Clarence and Mossie Scarlett. He is survived by his wife, Caroline; his brother, Don, of Winston-Salem, N.C.; children Jon Scarlett (Lin) of Smyrna; David Scarlett (Teresa) and Nan Scarlett Overton (Melbourn), both of Brentwood; grandchildren Taylor Overton, Jackson Overton, Barry Scarlett and Heather Scarlett Wilson; and three great-grandchildren.
Scarlett was a member of the First Presbyterian Church and, for a time in his youth, considered becoming a minister. He soon realized education was his true calling and attended Catawba College in North Carolina, becoming the first member of his family to earn a college degree.
In addition to his service at MTSU, Scarlett’s higher-education career included:
- serving as regents professor of higher education at the University of Memphis for nine years;
- working as a college public-relations director, dean of a church-related college in Hastings, Neb., and president at state universities in three states; and
- serving as head of a nine-campus university system, a member of the governing board of a private college, consultant to colleges and universities and a member of accrediting teams for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)