Stuart Mellan, longtime leader of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, and his wife, Nancy, will be the honorees for Tucson Hebrew Academy’s 2020 Tikkun Olam Celebration.
“Then and Now: Celebrating 25 Years of Leadership” will be presented as a YouTube video on Thursday, Oct. 22 at 7 p.m.
Mellan retired in May 2020 after 25 years as president and CEO of the Federation.
THA’s Tikkun Olam award was established to honor a community member who has made “a difference and repaired the world,” says Ronnie Sebold, defining the concept of tikkun olam, which goes back to the Mishnah, the Jewish code of law.
“I don’t think anybody really epitomizes that award as much as Stu and Nancy do,” says Sebold, a life member of the THA board of trustees and former director of development. “They have not only embraced this community but have led this community in kindness, compassion, understanding, cohesiveness, and cooperation.”
During Mellan’s tenure, the Federation more than doubled its annual fundraising campaign, which supports local organizations as well as Jewish communities around the world, while the assets of the Jewish Community Foundation grew tenfold. Under Mellan’s leadership, the Federation worked with local partners to develop new initiatives that enhance collaboration and inclusion. One of the first Federation projects he helped establish was the Weintraub Israel Center. Other programs he fostered include the LGBT Inclusion Project (now J-Pride), the Ruth and Irving Olson Center for Jewish Life in the Northwest, the Holocaust History Center at the Jewish History Museum, PJ Library, and the Jewish-Latino Teen Coalition. More recently, he guided the capital campaign to fund construction of the new home of the Federation and the Jewish Community Foundation, the Harvey and Deanna Evenchik Center for Jewish Philanthropy.
“I worked hard to create an inclusive Federation, an inclusive community that celebrates every individual and nurtures the spirit of partnership between our institutions, making a place for everyone to participate who wants to participate,” Mellan told the AJP in May.
Mellan’s broader community involvements included leadership with the Cradle to Career project for the United Way. In 2018, the Father’s Day Council Tucson honored him as one of its Father of the Year Award recipients at its gala benefiting type 1 diabetes research at the Steele Children’s Research Center at the University of Arizona.
Nancy, a professional modern dancer, served as a dance educator at Pima Community College and founded the Zuzi Dance Company and School soon after the Mellans arrived in Tucson. An innovator in bringing dance into sacred spaces, Nancy created dance projects at THA and Congregation Or Chadash as well as Interfaith work including a community celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. After retiring from her dance career, Nancy’s work included service in the office of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and as proprietor of Casa Luna Bed and Breakfast. A fiber artist and poet, Nancy applies her creativity to various community projects, serving as a mentor to incarcerated poets through the University of Arizona Poetry Center’s “Arts for Justice” project, and as co-chair of the Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy social justice committee.
“My deep passion for THA has both a personal and professional element; personal because I witnessed the nurturing sense of community that surrounded my kids there, and professional because I came to understand how a vibrant day school must be a cornerstone of any dynamic Jewish community,” says Mellan. “Needless to say, Nancy and I are deeply grateful for this honor — especially given the remarkable individuals who’ve been recognized through the years.”