Washburn says goodbye to beloved librarian

Ryan Ogle, [email protected] edu, is a senior mass media major

On August 13, Washburn University lost one of its own when longtime librarian Cal Melick, 66, was killed while riding his bicycle outside of Lawrence.

Melick, an avid cyclist, was riding near Clinton Lake when a pick-up truck struck his bike while attempting to pass another vehicle.

A librarian at Washburn for over 30 years, Melick was a familiar and friendly face to staff and students who frequented the Mabee Library. He was considered by many to be a vital member of the Mabee staff.

“He’s probably the kindest, most wonderful librarian you’ll ever meet and a brilliant librarian,” said Alan Bearman, dean of university libraries at Washburn. One story I like to tell about Cal is, when I first became the dean of libraries, Cal walked into my office and said, ‘Being the dean of libraries is easy. You just have to remember one thing.’ He wagged his finger at me, smiled and said, ‘You gotta put the students first.’”

Melick lived by that motto and was known by his colleagues as one of the most dedicated faculty members on campus. Bearman speaks to that dedication by recalling a time when a weekend snowstorm that saw the area blanketed in 10 inches of snow couldn’t even stop Melick from making the drive from his Lawrence home to make sure the library doors were open.

“I put my boots on and trudged over to make sure the library opened and Cal was already here,” said Bearman. “And he did this every time it snowed because he knew there was a student, even if it was just one, that would need to come into the library to study for an exam or write a paper. I said, ‘Cal, you live in Lawrence. I live across the street. What are you doing here?’ He said, ‘I was out running errands and thought I’d come by to make sure we opened.’ That was how dedicated he was.”

Washburn professor Patti Bender recalls Melick’s warmth and compassion for his friends and co-workers.

“Cal Melick was one of my best friends at Washburn,” said Bender in an email to faculty.

“When I began my biography of Emilie Loring in the 1990s, Cal was relentless in helping me locate her first short stories. The search took years to complete and provided us many opportunities to chat in the library. We exchanged journal articles about calcium loss in cyclists and shared our favorite resources for genealogical research. His was one of the faces I looked for at General Faculty meetings–a quick wave, a smile.”

Intellectual and professional connections aside, Bender also remembers Melick as someone always willing to help a friend.

“After I had rotator cuff surgery in 2007, he picked me up every morning at my house in Lawrence, drove me to school in Topeka, then drove me home at the end of the day for eight weeks. I am thankful, and I am saddened. Cal was the kind of person the world needs in abundance–an excellent and exacting scholar-librarian, a good and steady man, a kind soul.”

In tribute to her friend, Bender quotes from a letter Melick wrote to her when she retired in May.

In his letter Melick wrote, “Our academic research is a life-long challenge that goes on both before and after retirement.”

One final thought shared by Bearman summarizes just how important Melick was here at Washburn.

If you ever meet a person who could be considered irreplaceable, that person is Cal Melick.”

An announcement regarding Cal Melick’s memorial will be made soon.