Supporting the Vibrant Student Experience
Patricia Bryant Melcher (Engineering ’82)
For many college students, there comes a pivotal moment when a classroom discussion, a conversation with a professor, or a special project inspires them to take a path they hadn’t previously considered. For Patti Bryant Melcher, that moment came on a spring day during her second year at the University.
She had planned to major in electrical engineering and, during the summers, continue with the job she had secured during high school playing violin in Colonial Williamsburg. But one afternoon she made a split-second decision that set her on a new course, one she hadn’t envisioned before.
“I don’t know what made me do it, but for some reason I wandered into the career guidance center,” Melcher said. “I can’t remember the name of the man who helped me, though I can still see his face. I wasn’t in there very long, but I walked out with a summer internship at General Electric.”
The internship lasted for two summers and led Melcher to a new major: systems engineering, then “a relatively new field,” she said. When she completed her bachelor of science degree in 1982, she had found half of her niche; she filled the other half by earning a master of business administration degree at Harvard University in 1986.
With the strong analytical skills of an engineer and a business acumen honed in graduate school, Melcher began her career in energy industry investing. Today, she serves as the chief executive officer of EIV Capital Management Company in Houston, Texas.
Musing about places on Grounds that hold significance for her, Melcher names an unlikely spot: the attic in Newcomb Hall. There, she recalled, she spent countless hours in the warren of offices once occupied by the Cavalier Daily, doing paste-up and subsequently serving as production manager and business manager.
“It wasn’t an elegant place by any means, but it’s where a bunch of us spent time,” Melcher said. “We felt a lot of camaraderie and a sense of accomplishment when we’d get the paper out.”
As a philanthropist, Melcher relishes supporting education. “I got a terrific education at U.Va. and participated in a lot of activities that go with a vibrant experience,” she said. “I don’t think I could’ve picked a better college to attend.”