Piedmont’s Best Kept secret: Mrs. Melba


Always putting smiles on peoples faces, Mrs. Melba is the first face you see when you enter the cafe. PHOTO / BRETT LOFTIS

Savannah Richards, Contributing Writer

Many of Piedmont’s students have found a campus mom and source of comfort in a rather unlikely place–the café. 


“I’m a people person and I’m in my element when I get to take care of people,” said Melba Lewallen, a staff member at Piedmont. “That’s what I enjoy.”


Lewallen works in the Piedmont College cafeteria, and is known for the smile–and occasional hug–she greets each student with as they come to get their meal.


“I had not worked after I had my daughter, and I volunteered at her schools all the way through high school,” said Lewallen. “She was in marching band, so I’d volunteer on band trips and stuff like that. But I always told her that when she graduated high school momma was going back to work so momma’d have her own money.”


Piedmont was a clear choice for Lewallen when she decided to go back to work, because she lives near the campus and has a passion for working with teens and young adults. 


“I knew I didn’t want to be in the public school system, and my oldest sister graduated from Piedmont,” said Lewallen. “I feel like I got lucky when I found out they were looking for people.”


Many students have also expressed that they feel lucky to have Lewallen as a part of the Piedmont family. Time and time again Lewallen has gone out of her way to be a pillar of support for students as they deal with the pressures of college life.


“We’d been in school for probably a month, and one student was always sitting by herself,” said Lewallen. “Let’s just say that she got taken advantage of because she had a car. It broke her heart because she thought that they were going to be friends. So I went to Bath and Body Works and bought just a little 5 dollar gift for her. Her momma called me crying because I reached out to her daughter.”


The kindness of Piedmont’s one and only “Mrs. Melba” has not gone unnoticed by the students who call this little campus home.


“She’s always defended me because I have my service dog, and has always been my most vocal advocate–my best support system here,” said senior Nichole Lane. “She’s honestly the most loyal and brave person with the biggest heart. She’s so many things for so many people and expects nothing in return. She’s just the most amazing person ever.”


Senior Kerilee Pruitt, when asked about how Lewallen has impacted her during her time at Piedmont, was more than willing to express her appreciation.


“Simply seeing Mrs. Melba in the cafe brightens any student’s day,” said Pruitt. “She greets every student and guest with a smile. She always makes the effort, and takes the care to ask about each student individually and wants them to succeed. She is such a positive light on campus.”


Lewallen, while she may not be a professor, has taught the young adults pursuing an education at Piedmont an important lesson that there’s no true curriculum for: compassion.  


“Sometimes you can see the look on a student’s face and know that they’re having a bad day,” said Lewallen. “But then you speak to them and– at least for a brief moment–they’ve forgotten about their problems. I’m just happiest when I’m helping make people smile.”