December 2010
Professor Bertram L. Melbourne: Creating Opportunities for Life Lessons
By Damien T. Frierson, M.S.W, graduate assistant, Office of University Communications

Professor Bertram L. Melbourne, Ph.D., was recently named an educator of excellence by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. (Justin D. Knight)

For Bertram L. Melbourne, Ph.D., professor of biblical languages and literature and former interim dean for the School of Divinity, education has less to do with filling a space in a classroom and more to do with creating opportunities for others to learn. This philosophy, which has guided his academic and community involvement nationally and internationally, recently earned him recognition from the Seventh-day Adventist Church as an educator of excellence.

Originally from Jamaica, Melbourne’s approach to life developed at an early age. An image from a book his mother purchased for him as a child often comes to mind. “I remember the phrase ‘I can’t’ and a character knocking out the ‘t’ and it becoming ‘I can,’” he says. “Where others like to give up, that’s where I begin.” “I often tell my students I am not teaching them for an exam or a grade but for life.”

Melbourne’s philosophy can be seen through the work that he has done as both a professor at Howard and as an ordained minister within the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. While challenging his students to learn from one another, Melbourne asks that they look past the test and requirements in his course and focus on the process of learning.

“I often tell my students I am not teaching them for an exam or a grade but for life,” he says. “If you approach what you are doing in a way that makes it applicable to life, then your grade falls into place.”
In his 20 years as a faculty member and administrator at Howard, Melbourne has continued to build on his approach to faith and education. “By the time I got to Howard, I had worked with numerous faculty and students. I was able to reflect on the approach I would take to education,” he says. “Howard gave me a laboratory to develop those concepts I had worked on.”

His desire to assist others in interpreting and applying biblical scripture to their lives has led him across the world. He has taught at colleges and universities in several countries including South Africa, South Korea, Australia, India and Great Britain. His book Discipleship: A Bible Study Guide for Members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church has been used by a worldwide denomination of 15 million people.

In addition to serving as interim pastor of a congregation in Rockville, Md., Melbourne founded and continues to work with College Educate Our Sons, an organization dedicated to increasing the number of young men on university campuses in the U.S. and overseas through prayer and mentoring.
With his most recent honor and achievements as an educator, Melbourne says he will continue to use every opportunity he has to educate those he comes in contact with. “Whenever I get up to speak in whatever setting, somebody should hear something that they have never heard before so that they have learned something new.”

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