“Couple of years” transformed into a career for this leader in student affairs

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Anna Melnyk Allen came to La Salle in 1976 as a student and she never left. She has spent her career training students and supporting colleagues for over 40 years.

Anna Melnyk Allen, ’80, MA ’02, didn’t have to look far to find her first job out of college.

After graduating from La Salle College (as it was then called) with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1980, the native of Phoenixville, Pa., Was hired as an admissions counselor in her alma mater. Starting his professional career working with incoming students at La Salle was an exciting prospect for Allen. She never considered staying at the 20th and Olney for too long.

“I thought I would do this for a few years while I discovered myself,” Allen said. “I would find out who I was, what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be. “

Turns out Allen was exactly where she wanted to be. And she never left.

Those “two years” grew to 19 in La Salle’s admissions department, and 17 more as assistant and associate dean of student affairs at La Salle University. Allen then served as assistant vice president of campus life for four years before retiring in May 2021.

Image of Anna and William Allen at a men's basketball game at La Salle.
Anna and her husband, William “Chuck”
Allen, during a men’s basketball game at La Salle.

In total, Allen spent 45 consecutive years at La Salle: four as an undergraduate student (she obtained a Masters in Professional Communication from the University in 2002) and 41 as an employee. Allen said she stayed at La Salle because she found her niche: educating students in an environment where she can grow personally and professionally.

“Sometimes you keep a job because you’re afraid to leave,” Allen said. “I stayed in a job because I couldn’t find another place where I would feel like this. La Salle is truly an incredible place. When you learn about the student journey with them, when they let you in and can help them make a difference, that’s what motivates you. And the right people saw the right thing in me to allow me to use my ability to grow and learn. I’ve never had two years in a row that felt the same.

For Allen, La Salle represents more than a long and fulfilling career spent in one place. She is also linked to the University through her family.

Allen met her future husband, William “Chuck” Allen, ’77, in 1976 as a freshman, and their children continued the family legacy at La Salle. The Allen’s daughter, Sara, ’08, majored in communications and works at Temple University as an academic advisor in their Honors Business program. Their 14-year-old son William graduated with an Integrated Science and Business Technology (ISBT) degree and is currently working in the IT department at La Salle.

His brother, Ray Melnyk, ’76, a retired colonel in the United States Army, was a member of La Salle’s ROTC program. Allen and his brother, along with two other sisters who attended college elsewhere, were first-generation students whose parents immigrated from Ukraine and made higher education a priority for their children.

“My parents always told us we were going to college,” Allen said. “And as Ukrainian immigrants, what they have made possible for us is simply breathtaking.”

Anna Allen her daughter Sara in early 2008.
Anna Allen and her daughter Sara, at
the start of the 2008 class.

Chris Kazmierczak, Allen’s 21-year colleague, witnessed firsthand how important family was to Allen, recalling how she carefully balanced her work responsibilities while caring for her aging mother.

“I think that sums up who Anna is – how she took care of her mother after her father passed away,” said Kazmierczak, director of campus life at La Salle. “Anna balanced her family and professional life and was able to give (her mother) the love and attention she needed. I was so impressed with Anna’s dedication and honesty about the challenges of caring for an aging parent while being a professional, friend, wife and mother. She demonstrated her strength and her attachment to Lasallian values.

Allen has extended this care and compassion to many La Salle students over the years, helping them guide and nurture them as if they were family. She remembered having difficult conversations and lavishing hard love, especially when it came to student conduct issues.

She often came out of these situations with a deeper understanding of the student.

“It’s actually very Lasallian,” Allen said. “It’s based on the truth. Students will understand this later. Throughout the process, you learn things about the student that you may never have learned. “

Colleagues praised Allen for the way she worked with the students and for the way she also supported her colleagues during difficult times.

Image of Anna Allen and her son William at the start of the 2014 class.
Anna Allen and her son, William, at
the start of the 2014 class.

Alan Wendell, assistant to the vice president of student development and campus life, explained how Allen “leans on” when a family affair required his full attention. Another colleague pointed to Allen’s firm hand and words of encouragement to the staff at Campus Life as they attempted to organize plans to return to campus over the past year.

“She was always checking her staff to make sure everything was okay,” said Kyra Spoto, manager of union services at La Salle. “She reassured us that we were doing a good job and she always let us know that she knew how hard we were working to make the campus safe for our students.”

Considering how Allen has nurtured students and helped them through difficult times during his four-plus decades at La Salle, it’s fitting that an emergency fund for students co-branded with his name is set up.

The Anna “Nush” Allen Student Emergency Fund is designed to help students who may be in crisis. It provides one-time funding for the expenses of students facing severe housing insecurity, food insecurity or temporary hardship issues.

This legacy of Allen’s tenure and impact has left his namesake humbled.

“It’s very thoughtful and meaningful to me,” Allen said. “Take care of our students and, occasionally, think about the role I have played in their lives. This is the best farewell gift of all. I don’t need anything more.

– Patrick Berkery


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