Request for Prayers – Death of Brother Mel Anderson, FSC

Dear Saint Mary’s Community Members, 

It is with a heavy heart and deep sadness that I inform you that our beloved Brother Mel Anderson, FSC, who was a Christian Brother for over 67 years and a devoted member of our Saint Mary’s community, passed away this morning on May 22. 

As you may know, Brother Mel served as Saint Mary’s president for 28 years (1969–1997), and his continued presence on campus provided comfort for many students, faculty, and alumni. 

Born the same year that the College opened its Moraga campus, Brother Mel had a long history with Saint Mary’s. Coincidentally, Brother Mel attended Saint Mary’s College High School in Berkeley before entering the novitiate in 1947. After graduating with a BA from Saint Mary’s College in 1952, he received his final vows on June 26, 1953.   

One of Brother Mel’s earliest and most impactful decisions was to establish Saint Mary’s as a coeducational college in 1970. Brother Mel believed that young men and women should relate to each other intellectually as they matured. “It was my conviction that men and women should share the same curriculum and classroom. Men and women should mature together. This way, they may get to know one another better on a higher level and make better choices for a spouse, for the future, for having children, etc.,” Brother Mel wrote. That fall, Saint Mary’s opened enrollment to women, breaking long-held barriers. 

Brother Mel also steered the school through a change in curriculum that highlighted Collegiate Seminar, one of the College’s most popular innovations and a key to our reputation as a top liberal arts institution. All of this is to remind us that the College instituted reading and discussion courses in the Great Books in 1942 and we just celebrated the 75th anniversary of the program in 2017. Under Brother Mel’s leadership, Jan Term, another unique element of Saint Mary’s, was also established. 

Brother Mel was known for living in the residence halls and hosting student dinners. His recipes for garlic bread and apple pie were much discussed—and are still a topic of conversation among alums. 

Brother Mel’s influence can be felt all across campus. In 1974, he established both our Graduate and Extended Ed programs. In 1977, he oversaw the dedication of the Hearst Art Gallery and, two years later, the Brother Cornelius Art classrooms. In 1996, Garaventa Hall was completed—the first new academic building in 17 years. Brother Mel strongly felt that the new building should maintain the same architectural integrity and richness as the rest of the campus. 

After retiring as president in 1997, Brother Mel returned to teaching his beloved Collegiate Seminar, which he did until two years ago at the age of 90. Brother Mel’s memoir, Years of Yearning, completed in 2011, highlights the societal, academic, and financial complexities that affected Saint Mary’s from 1969 to 1997. Brother Mel will be remembered as a champion of Saint Mary’s for our students, faculty, and staff.

If you would like to make a gift in memory of Brother Mel and his incredible legacy, I encourage you to support the Brother Mel Anderson Endowed Scholarship. Funeral services are pending and will be announced by the Saint Mary's College Brothers Community.

Sincerely,

James A. Donahue
President