Center for Excellence Honoree: Marisa Melillo

Marisa MelilloYou can't talk to Marisa Melillo, postal services specialist, for long without her face breaking into a smile. She is consistently happy even amid the clutter of her job.

"I classify what we do as organized chaos," Melillo said with a smile, of course. February is proof. "We say Valentine's Week, not day," Melillo said. "The kids are really loved here. You can't even see the floor in the post office. That's how many packages there are."

When Melillo began working at Quinnipiac there were 1,200 mailboxes. Now there are nearly 4,000. "We do everything a postal service does except money orders and registered mail," Melillo said. She manages a staff of 10 students.

"They keep me fresh, new and on my toes," Melillo said. "I like the camaraderie. We are like a family."

Family for sure. "Knowing Marisa is like having your mother work at the school," said junior Mary Kate Grant, a marketing major from Branford, Conn. "There is nothing she will not do for a student. If one needs a coat, she will gladly take hers off her own back and give it away. I have seen firsthand how generous Marisa is. I can say without doubt that if you have not met Marisa, worked with her, spoken with her or even asked for her help at the post office, then you have not received your full college experience. Words cannot do justice to the impact she has on my life daily." Grant has been working with Melillo in the post office since last year.

Wendy Penman of Washington, N.J., also worked with Melillo last year. Penman has since transferred. "Marisa loves helping all students and always has a beaming smile on her face," Penman said.

Grant, Penman and junior Melissa Swift, a psychology major from Wolcott, Conn., who works for Melillo, plus a staff member and Deborah Clark, associate professor of biology, nominated Melillo for the Excellence in Service to Students Award.

"She creates such a terrific work environment that all her student workers are also helpful and cheerful," Clark said. "Marisa makes it a fun place to be. She trains the students well, and she gets to know each of her students personally."

Swift said, "Marissa is extremely patient with students. Her energetic personality is a delight to be around. She seems to spread cheer throughout our student center."

Melillo is definitely a people person, which is why two years was enough for her as an operating-room technician at St. Vincent's Hospital in Bridgeport, Conn. She graduated from the hospital's operating-room technician program. "I decided I liked talking to people, and a body under anesthesia is not a good form of communication," she said. "The stress level got to me."

Her next job as a sales associate in the jewelry department at Edward Malley department store in New Haven is where Melillo met her husband, Thomas, a 1972 Quinnipiac graduate. His sister worked with Melillo and introduced the two while he was playing Santa. "I met him in a red and white suit and a beard," Melillo said. They have been married for 28 years and have three children, Tom Jr., 27, Nicholas, 26, and Felicity, 24. Nicholas graduated from Quinnipiac in 2000 and Felicity graduated in 2003.

Melillo actually returned to being an operating-room technician at the Hospital of St. Raphael in New Haven for two years. She left to help her husband, a middle school history and music teacher, start a flower shop, Main Stem, out of their house. A friend displayed his flower arrangements in her gift shop to advertise his work. "The business blossomed from there," Melillo said.

It grew so much that Tom opened a store in New Haven's Westville neighborhood a year later in 1981. The business is now the Blossom Shop.

The Melillos had just bought their dream house in Cheshire when Tom saw Quinnipiac's ad in the newspaper for an accounting secretary in the bursar's office in 1987. Bursar Valerie Carbone hired Melillo on the spot. She moved to the post office a year later and fellow Excellence in Service to Students Award recipient Patricia Hayes took over in the bursar's office.

Melillo learned about good service as a teenager while helping her father in his stores, Pegnataro's Supermarkets, a chain of six in Greater New Haven, which closed in the early 1980s. Melillo said, "Good service begins with a 'good morning' or 'How are you today?' and includes going the extra mile to find that lost package."

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