Rodger Madden Melrose / 1923-2008
Rodger Madden Melrose is seen here in 1987.
Seabury founder brought empathy to Maui campus
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WAILUKU » The Episcopal minister who helped found the private college preparatory school Seabury Hall on Maui and served as its first headmaster has died.
Rodger Madden Melrose, 84, a World War II Navy veteran, died June 26 at his residence at Kealakekua, Hawaii.
With his family, including his wife, Charlotte, Melrose moved from Central Maui to the school's location in Olinda in 1964 on an estate donated to the Episcopal Church.
The school, which initially offered boarding for girls and coed day classes, began with 51 students in a converted building that had formerly been a five-car garage.
Friends say Melrose, who retired in 1987, helped to set an atmosphere of empathy and caring for the students that continues today.
Kathy Czar, a former boarder from the Marshall Islands and now a teacher at Seabury, said she has "wonderful memories" of her school days and the Melroses.
"It was not just a school. It was a family," Czar said.
"They took care of us. Many of the boarders lived so far away from home."
Former teacher Paul Wood recalled his job interview with Melrose, who made clear that working at Seabury with its boarders was a seven-day, 24-hour job.
"His passion for education and living a good life was contagious," Wood said. "It came from his worldview as an Episcopal priest. He believed that the school's mission was to redeem students, not just to teach them."
Wood said some of the students were not the most academically gifted, but Melrose believed in them and imparted the values of caring to try to help them find their path.
"He loved the students and cared about them above all," Wood said.
"Over time he had a lot of students coming back to Seabury, deeply grateful for what he had done to transform their lives."
Wood said Melrose started innovative programs outside the classroom that would build confidence and social awareness, including chaperoned literary tours to England, Ireland and France.
"We would read Words- worth's 'Tintern Abbey' and then visit Tintern Abbey," he said. "They were powerful experiences."
A "Celebration of Life" service will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at the Christ Church Episcopal in Kealakekua.
The family requests no flowers. Memorial donations may be made to Hospice of Kona or the Christ Church.