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John F. Melby (1913-1992)

University Affiliation:
  • Director of the Office for Foreign Students
  • Lecturer in Political Science
Biographical Summary:
  • Foreign Service Officer
  • President of International House
  • Executive Vice-President of the National Council on Asian Affairs


John F. Melby earned his doctorate at the University of Chicago and was a Foreign Service Officer all over the globe from 1937-1953, serving in Latin America, the USSR and the Far East. In 1937 he had assignments in Juarez, Mexico and for two years from 1939-1941 his assignments were in Caracas. He worked in Moscow from 1943-1945 as the Acting Director of the Office of War information. From 1945-1948 he had assignments in Chungking and Nanking in China and was the Director of the United States Education Foundation (Fulbright) in China in 1948. From 1949-1955, he worked in the Office of Philippine and Southeast Asian Affairs and in 1950 became the Chairman of the Joint State-Defense Military Assistance Mission to Southeast Asia.

Returning to the states, he became the Executive Vice-President of the National Council on Asian Affairs. He became a member of the board of trustees of International House of Philadelphia and became the Director of the Office for Foreign Students in 1959. At the same time, he was a part-time lecturer in political science. His work at Penn began while he had been cooperatively running the Council on Asian Affairs in Philadelphia, and the father-in-law of the woman he was working with on that council happened to be on the Penn Board of Trustees. He was ultimately fired by Gene Gisburne, a former Vice President of Student Affairs. Regardless, he continued to lecture full-time for one more year.

Dr. Melby authored two books, the first with Elinor K. Wolf titled Looking glass for American: a study of the foreign students at the University of Pennsylvania, published in 1961 in which Melby interviewed five hundred foreign students (which made up approximately ninety percent of the foreign student population at the University of Pennsylvania at the time). He motivated the students to participate in a questionnaire as part of the interview process on how they were experiencing life in Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania and kept strict record of his progress. He surveyed the data and published the results in the aforementioned book. In 1968, Dr. Melby wrote Mandate of Heaven: record of a civil war: China 1945-1949. He also published an Orientation course for African Students in 1961.


Photograph of John F. Melby




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