Posted: May 18th, 2011 | By: Lisa Snedeker
Melanie Nutt says it took her a long time to figure out why God put her on earth. She believes now that it was to work with students. Specifically Wake Forest law students.
“I made a difference in a lot of people’s lives,” she said.
Indeed. Nutt’s name has been synonymous with Wake Forest University School of Law for prospective students for more than 30 years.
“She is magical with the students,” says Ann Gibbs, associate dean of Administrative & Student Services, who has worked with Nutt for more than a decade. “She is great at getting students to do what they need to do. I think it’s her straight talk. They know where she stands.”
In fact, if you talk to any alumni who graduated in the 1980s, 1990s or 2000s, they will most likely tell you that the tipping point for why they chose Wake Forest law school was Nutt, director of admissions and financial aid for more than 30 years.
“Quite literally, none of us would be going to school here if it weren’t for Melanie,” says Brian McKeon (’13). “For many people, Melanie was the face of Wake Forest when you visited here, and her kindness and enthusiasm were part of the reason you chose to study here. Others might not have been able to attend such a high caliber law school if Melanie hadn’t given them a chance by extending an offer of admission. Like myself, I know many of the students here are very grateful for what Melanie has done for each of us and for the school.”
Nutt was born Aug. 23, 1938. But you would never know that this energetic woman who has a smile for everyone she meets is 72. In fact, if you had to guess, you would probably be off by at least a decade or two.
It’s hard to imagine that smile not gracing the halls of the Worrell Professional Center after June, although she promises to come back and visit often.
The mother of three started at the law school in 1969 part-time and a year later began working with the Law Review full-time, a position she held for nine years. After switching to financial aid part-time and then admissions, she was promoted to director of admissions and financial aid in 1981. She’s never looked back.
“Hopefully I recruited good students who represent Wake Forest law school well and who do good by doing well,” she says.
Over the years, Nutt says recruiting, retention and making sure the Wake Forest ethos is put first has made up the majority of her work.
When asked if she ever thought of becoming a lawyer herself, she laughed. “Absolutely not,” she said. “I took a lot of law classes over the years but I’m non-confrontational.”
Nutt says she plans to travel with her husband, Carl, of 52 years. “We started traveling about 10-12 years ago,” she said. “I found Russia fascinating. And I love Costa Rica and Italy and we’re going back there in September.”
She also plans on catching up on reading “anything but romance novels” and working out on her treadmill. “I’m in good shape for an old bird,” she said.
The law school and nearly 200 alumni will gather Thursday, May 19, to toast Nutt’s 40-plus years of service to the university. And a scholarship has been set up in her honor. If you are interested in donating to it, please visit www.wfu.edu/giving3 and designate your gift to the Melanie G. Nutt Law Scholarship. So far more than $130,000 has been raised for the endowed scholarship that will support a law school student with financial need. Nutt was presented with the scholarship on Oct. 22, 2010, during the Law Board of Visitors fall banquet. Judge Denise Hartsfield (’91) and Katie King (’12) shared how their experiences with Nutt was why they decided to attend Wake Forest law school.
“Her personal touch has earned her respect of admissions professionals nationwide but perhaps her greatest gift is the ability to connect with every generation of Wake Forest student,” said Dean Blake Morant during this year’s hooding ceremony at which it was announced that Nutt had been voted “Staff Member of the Year” by the third-year class.
Andy Yun (’11) said that Nutt was the only reason he ever even heard of Wake Forest. The California native said Wake Forest wasn’t even on his radar until he met Nutt, who convinced him that WFU would make a good fit.
“How you manage to remember the names of all the law students is beyond me,” Ashleigh Wilson (’11) wrote on Nutt’s Guestbook. “You will be missed.”