University of Mount Olive Student Fulfills Her Husband’s Last Wish

MOUNT OLIVE – Melda Brinchek’s husband, Ray, was diagnosed with stage four stomach cancer in August 2009.  She had already enrolled in University of Mount Olive’s Management and Organizational Development program and wanted to take a break to care for him.  He was afraid that if she stopped she would never go back.

“He pushed me to be better.  In the evenings after work, he would ask me if I had done my homework, or he would keep pressuring me until I’d finally sit down to study.”   After learning how to strategically plan around being in school and caring for her husband full-time, she will graduate in August.

Brinchek’s decision to return to school was somewhat simple considering her manager and mentor, Edwin Jackson at Caterpillar in Clayton, was a graduate of University of Mount Olive’s MOD program.  She knew that the program would fit into her life’s schedule when Jackson showed her information about the class sizes and the age groups of the accelerated programs.  She also credits her husband for being a major push in making the decision to return to school.  “He hated to see me come home from work greasy and nasty from working on the heavy equipment and commented about it often.  He asked me several times why I had previously dropped out of college, and I would only say that I had to support myself.  Ray would look at my calloused hands and shake his head and tell me that no woman should ever have to work that hard to make a living.  He pushed me to take a job that opened my eyes to a part of Caterpillar I had never seen.  When I came home and told him that I liked it, he said ‘now, think of what you could do if you had a degree’”

Brinchek’s experience at University of Mount Olive is a textbook example of how an education can be a career accelerant.  She believes that the job she has now, BackHoe Loader Product Support Analyst, is a direct reflection of her degree.  She accepted her job knowing that she had to complete her degree to move on to greater things. “I will never forget the day that I was offered a promotion at work, simply because I was a senior in college.  I went to the hospital and I told Ray that he could finally retire.  We had a deal that if I got a promotion, he could officially quit working and retire so that we could focus on the cancer.  He was so proud of me, but sad at the same time because I was where I wanted to be, and he was struggling to survive.”

On January 17, 2011, Ray passed away.  ”He will not physically be at graduation, but I know that he will be smiling down on me as I walk across the stage.  Weeks before he passed, he made me promise him a few things.  Graduating and walking across the stage, whether he was there or not, was one of them.

Brinchek plans to keep her husband’s memory alive by working with the Johnston County Relay for Life.  She also plans to take some “me” time, and then eventually pursue her MBA degree.  For now, she’s settling into a great job that allows her to travel the world.  “University of Mount Olive has given me the life that my husband wanted for me: I have the ability to make improvements in the equipment that Caterpillar produces, and a life with a good, secure job.”

University of Mount Olive will graduate approximately 250 students at its 58th commencement on Saturday, August 27, 2011.  Graduation exercises are scheduled for 2:00 PM. in the George and Annie Dail Kornegay Arena.  The commencement speaker will be the Honorable Louis Pate, North Carolina Senator.

University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The College, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Goldsboro, Research Triangle Park, Washington and Jacksonville.  For more information, visit