John Ward Melville (January 5, 1887 - June 5, 1977) was an American philanthropist and businessman active in the "Three Villages" in western Suffolk County, Long Island, New York. He donated 400 acres of land and money to establish the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1957, which has developed as a major public research institution.
Early life and education
He was born to Frank Melville, Jr. and his wife, Jennie. Ward Melville attended college at Columbia University, where he was active in the Columbia Daily Spectator and the Philolexian Society.
Marriage and family
After joining his father in his company, in 1909 Melville married Dorothy Bigelow.
Following graduation in 1909, Melville joined his father's shoe company, Melville Corporation. Upon the United States' entrance into World War I, Melville became a soldier of the US Army.
After the war, Melville continued to work in his father's company, eventually taking control of it in 1922. At the time, he created the Thom McAn shoe line, which became popular. He was CEO of the corporation.
Philanthropy and civic activities
Melville settled in the Stony Brook area in western Suffolk County on Long Island, where he owned much land. He served as a member of the school board in Setauket, where he donated the land for the high school. From 1948 to 1949 he was the 66th President of the Saint Andrew's Society of the State of New York.
Melville was very active in philanthropic works around the "Three Village" area (Stony Brook, Setauket, and Old Field) and the surrounding towns. He supported the restoration and preservation of historic buildings in the area to encourage his vision of a New England village. Stony Brook was organized around a town green. He also supported conservation of natural areas, including the West Meadow Beach.
Another interest was education and he developed land for the high school in Setauket, which was named for him. His larger contribution was the donation of 400 acres of land and money to New York state to establish what is now the Stony Brook University, which was founded in 1957. First operating with classes in Oyster Bay, its current campus opened in 1962. Emphasizing teacher education in mathematics and sciences, the university has developed as a major public research institution in medicine and science. Governor W. Averell Harriman appointed Melville as chairman of the Council of the university, where he served for some years.
Melville died in 1977 and is buried in Setauket at the Caroline Church and Cemetery.
Legacy and honors
- Numerous organizations are named after him, including the local high school, Ward Melville High School in Setauket.
- The main library at Stony Brook University is named for his father.
- The Ward Melville Social and Behavioral Sciences building at Stony Brook University was named in his honor.