Imagining With Geno2019-06-25T17:24:28+00:00

We invite you to celebrate Geno with us.

A chance to share your thoughts and stories, a chance to support a way of learning that captures Gene Melander’s sense of imagination and possibility, and evolving plans for some celebrations of his exquisite heart and mind.

By way of invitation, a note he wrote to his family in 2012, about the power of conversations, ideas, and most importantly, love:

This I believe:  Each of us is engaged in two very important ongoing conversations as we live out our lives;  One, the primary conversation, is the one we hold with ourselves around the clock each day, trying to figure out who we are as subjective individuals, what gives meaning and how we pursue it.  But the second kind of conversation for each us are the ones we hold with others, that brings other–therefore, objective–perspectives about what has meaning into play and fuels the inner conversation of all the participants and empowers their individual capacities for positive change and growth.  These conversations within and between the subjective self and the objective other are what living a meaningful life is all about.

So, putting our family conversations into that framework,  I find my inner conversation greatly stimulated.  And I very grateful.  Just as one’s inner conversation is seldom structured as it wanders about through different realms of awareness, the shared conversation is wonderfully suggestive of the diversity and vastness of where meaning lies. Okay, personal philosophy 101, is over.

But “thank you” to each of you for making our family life meaningful;  our conversations are important, yes, vital, to me–this I believe, this I feel, this I know.  Not incidentally, it’s what love is all about–caring and sharing.

Love, ERMie

Sharing Stories

Geno loved stories. Please feel free to share your stories, your memories of him, things that inspire your imagination. And bad jokes, of course. You can share them by clicking on the “new entry” button below. Thank you!

Please share your stories in the guestbook.

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31 entries.
Jack Selzer from State College wrote on June 22, 2019 at 3:29 pm:
I didn't know Gene well at all, but about a decade ago, as a novice member of Lit Club, I found myself sitting next to him at dinner. I shared one thing that we had in common--daughter Jodie, who I remembered to him as one of my favorite Penn State student of all time. Gene listened as I explained my regard for her and queried me about it, and it was apparent from the interaction that he dearly loved his wonderful family. That's how I'll always think of him. (And you remain one of my all-time favorites, Jodie! So sorry that you lost your dad!)
Thomazine Shanahan from State College wrote on June 22, 2019 at 3:08 pm:
To me, Gene was the ultimate lifelong learner. Years ago I discovered that he and Jackie knew and appreciated contemporary poetry, a passion I share. One day Gene turned up at my house and presented me with an elegant canvas bag bearing The New Yorker logo. It was so heavy I could barely lift it because it was full to the top with poetry collections by W.S. Merwin, Jane Hirshfield, Louise Gluck, John Ashberry, and most of all, Mary Oliver. Just like Gene, he'd included books about poetry including The Poetry of Everyday Life: Story Telling and the Art of Awareness; Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World, and How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry. Some were new to me; some were signed. Such a priceless gift and a perfect expression of Gene's generosity and his impulse to share what he learned and valued. Each time I dip into these books I will think of Gene with love and admiration.
Katie O'Toole from Lemont wrote on June 22, 2019 at 2:28 pm:
One of many things I loved about Gene was his insatiable curiosity. He seemed to have an interest in everything and everyone. And he was eager to share what he knew and learn what he didn’t. Gene was a delightful conversationalist. He always had something to add, but he was also a thoughtful listener who could ask a probing question or two that could make you look at something with fresh eyes. It wasn’t unusual at lit club for Gene to start a conversation in some rarefied realm of philosophy and end it in a mildly bawdy joke or a groaner of a pun. The last joke I can remember him telling me went like this: Descartes walks into a bar and orders a drink. He belts it down quickly. The bartender says, “Would you like another?” Descartes says, “I think not.” And disappears. Because of his wide range of interests and expertise, I once asked Gene if he considered himself a Renaissance Man. He replied, “No, my dear, I am very much a work in progress.” He truly was the epitome of a life-long learner. Which is why it’s so fitting that he had just recently taken up cello. With his penchant for bad puns, I can almost hear him explaining his new hobby: “There’s always room for Cello.” I will miss his quick wit, ready smile, and gentle spirit.
Mary Gage from State College wrote on June 22, 2019 at 1:59 pm:
I will never forget how Gene invited me to give a talk at the Lit Club. Only after I had done it, did he tell me that no woman had ever done that before!! He was full of new ideas and loved earnest discussions about theatre and art as well as philosophy and education. He was rightly proud of his amazing family and my heart goes out to them in their loss.
Michael J Dooris from STATE COLLEGE wrote on June 22, 2019 at 1:33 pm:
Gene and I worked in adjacent offices in Old Main. He was a wonderful colleague, generous mentor, and a valued friend. I learned a lot from him about Penn State and about higher education -- but more than anything, about being a decent person. I have so many fond memories of Gene. For example: Years ago, we were deep into a difficult and contentious meeting in Old Main. One committee member in particular had been getting carried away and was being especially argumentative. Many of us in the room had had enough., including Gene. But rather than further ramping things up, Gene waited for a pause, then quietly said something like, "Oh, now we're just being silly" -- no doubt followed by some lengthy and intellectual philosophical disquisition. But what I remember is the "we're being silly" idea. Anyhow, because Gene didn't necessarily try to win an argument, he was often a calm and thoughtful voice of reason. Maybe it was due in part to his Midwestern roots, but Gene had a humble vibe that I, and many others, respected so much. He was a terrific guy and a person of integrity and compassion. I'm so grateful to have had the chance to know him.
Fred Loomis from Blue Bell, PA wrote on June 22, 2019 at 1:31 pm:
Gene was a mentor to me as a young professional and doctoral student, teaching me so much about the wonders of Penn State and the world of higher education. We both had offices on the 4th floor of Old Main and many conversations started in the men's room and continued down the hallway for many minutes. Gene was a great listener, and he would always probe with questions and offer insights until there was better understanding. That was his gift -- and he shared his wisdom and grace so freely with others. Through the years, he provided great leadership to many projects at Penn State. And I remember he would end every meeting by saying "thanks for sharing," a phrase I adopted as well and use to this day in my teaching. Well, thanks for sharing, Gene, and thanks to his wonderful family for sharing him with all of us.
DONNA QUEENEY from STATE COLLEGE wrote on June 22, 2019 at 1:31 pm:
Always with a kind word for everyone he encountered, Gene had a positive and lasting impact the lives of many of us. He was a significant asset to both town and gown communities.
Patricia A Brundage from Bakersfield wrote on June 21, 2019 at 11:14 pm:
I only had the pleasure of meeting Gene once. Leigh's Imaginal Institute put on a conference in Ojai, and Leigh's parents came out and fed us all weekend. Her dad also participated in a panel discussion about finding our places in the academic world. This kind and wonderful man fed us all both physically and mentally. He was a kind and gentle soul, and I know that his family keenly feels his loss.
R Thomas Berner from Bellefonte wrote on June 21, 2019 at 10:15 pm:
Every time I had a conversation with Gene, I was educated and stimulated. I will miss those conversations. I am sure I am not the only one.
Gabrielle Milanich from Port Orchard, WA wrote on June 21, 2019 at 7:55 pm:
I learned of Gene only a very short time ago, and it was through that very image above: Leigh's father befriending the cello. To say I was struck by his forging this relationship with an instrument so stirring, so generous, so loving and reflective is an understatement. It seems as though he might very well have met a reflection of himself. I remember thinking Leigh and her family had been blessed to have enjoyed a father such as Gene for so long. For surely that in itself must be a testament to such a clear and resounding musical note that is Gene and his family. My most sincere condolences to all who loved him.
david werner from state college wrote on June 21, 2019 at 7:54 pm:
I met Gene through lit club about 10 years ago. It was a pleasure to see him at our monthly event. He always had a good question about a paper and a word of encouragement. However, what I remember most was his true interest in all of us as individuals. It was a great pleasure to know Gene. There are few people one meets in life like him and I will carry his memory with me. David


Geno’s ticket to college was the GI Bill. After a stint in the Army, he returned to Minneapolis and studied General Business, a choice of pragmatism, not of the heart. It was the boredom of working at Pillsbury as an accountant and the dire threat of moving to Enid, Oklahoma with an impending promotion that drove him to return to the University of Minnesota for his Masters in Economics and Ph.D. in Economics and Statistics. It was a liberation. His gratitude for what education gave him fueled his 39 years at Penn State as a teacher, an administrator, but most of all, an advocate for students.

The values that Geno held most dear—for learning, community, and personal growthwere at the heart of his academic career. He was a driving force in founding the Bachelor of Philosophy Program and the Honors College at Penn State. He was also, understandably, committed to those values as they related to the educational experiences of his family. As we have thought about an appropriate way to remember him, we have decided to establish the Gene Melander Fund for the Delta Program through the Centre Foundation. Delta is a democratic school in the State College Area School District which serves both middle and high school students. It’s a wonderful place where students, parents, and teachers develop personalized learning within a shared sense of community. Gene’s daughter Leigh was a student at Delta’s precursor, the Alternative Program, and two of his beloved granddaughters, Rosie and Merryn, attend Delta. Our hope is that this fund will continue Gene’s positive influence in learners’ lives for years to come.  

If you would like to join us, you can donate here. Thank you.


An elegant subversive, and a self-effacing Midwesterner, Geno had no desire for either a funeral or a traditional memorial service. He did, however, love celebrations, and loved creating opportunities for people to engage in play. He was the vastly-entertained (and entertaining) host of a series of fetes celebrating food, delight, silliness, and open-ended chances to imagine.

So, we are dreaming up events that would please him, and are turning to a recent source of delight as inspiration.

After a horrible one-day music career as a nine-year-old that ended up with a conductor breaking his baton over the head of a kid who didn’t know you were supposed to have learned how to play the trumpet before you went to band camp, Geno spent a lifetime loving music as an audience member.

A few weeks ago, Geno decided that he wanted to learn to play the cello. His friend Brian suggested that he just learn one note – how to draw the bow across the strings and let the music reverberate through him. It could be an opening into meditating on the sound, feel, and possibilities of music. He was enchanted. (And of course he and Jackie quickly decided that their international performing tour was in the offing.)

In this spirit, we’re in the process of planning gatherings to invite friends come and explore the magic of the one note. We will keep you posted on when plans are confirmed!

A poem from Brian Bastress, on the power of the one note…

One Note King

Open third string
Rosin dust on the floor
The world it will bring
It will open that door
The grain of her wood
The smell of her past
One note understood
His mind stays fast
One note among many
So many to choose
Regrets, there aren’t any
There is nothing to lose
He plays her again
That open D sound
It’s like an old friend
Someone he’s found
Suppose that he knew
What joy it would bring
To only a few
That One Note King


Some of the ideas that capture Geno’s interests and delights.