Claude Melli endowment benefits SJNCS students, teachers

St. John Neumann Catholic School in Farragut recently received the late Claude Melli endowment to benefit the school’s students and teachers.

“One thing I love about this gift is that it supports the full spectrum of the educational experience, providing opportunity for both students and teachers to learn, grow and thrive,” Father Joe Reed, pastor of St. John Neumann Catholic Church and School, said of the Claude Melli endowment.

The late Claude Melli, an SJNCS parishiner, was born to a farming family in Constantine, Algeria, in 1929 and “enjoyed a long and prosperous career as an agronomist, farmer and business owner,” stated a SJN press release.

“(Melli’s) aptitude for success in business was rooted in a strong work ethic, enthusiastic attitude and a commitment to improving himself through education,” the release added. “In addition to his zest for entrepreneurship, Claude was passionate about his family, friends, travel and a variety of interests that fulfilled his desire for a vibrant, active lifestyle.”

He passed away in December 2021, but “his legacy endures through an endowment gifted to St. John Neumann Catholic School by Lydia Melli, his wife of 45 years,” the release stated.

“Lydia is passionate about the lasting impact education can make on one’s life, as it did for her and Claude,” it stated. “Growing up in Morocco, she, too, came from a farming family, and her mother was a teacher. Lydia studied to be a teacher in college and taught young girls in Morocco for a short period early in her life.

“Shortly after Claude passed away, Lydia thought that a gift to St. John Neumann Catholic School would be a fitting tribute to him and a symbol of his belief in the everlasting value of education,” the release further stated. “She decided to establish an endowment that would provide financial assistance to students, as well as resources for teachers’ salaries and professional development.

“In recognition of this endowment gift, the school leadership suite has been named in memory of Claude.”

“The faculty, staff and students of St. John Neumann are grateful for Lydia’s thoughtfulness and generosity, and we are honored that our school leadership suite is now adorned with Claude’s name and magnified by his legacy,” Reed said.

“Claude was a firm believer, as am I, that education is the key that can unlock countless doors,” Lydia said.

“Education, and particularly the wonderful teachers we were blessed with in our lives, made a lasting impact on us and our family,” she added.

“My intentions with this gift are to remove barriers for students wishing to receive a Catholic school education and to provide resources that will help SJNCS continue to recruit, retain and develop the best possible teachers for its students.”