When we asked alumnus Stan Meloy if he would be interested in creating a profile for The Graduate School, he responded with what he calls "a letter of gratitude." Graduate school at Montana State University provided him with the skills needed to become a successful counselor to soldiers and military families. When alumni like Dr. Meloy share their personal and moving stories, it is testimony to the power a graduate education can have on shaping lives and impacting society.

I Wish I Could Do It Again
By G. Stan Meloy
M.S., Marriage & Family Therapy, 1992

"In June of 1990, I was in my mid-30’s, steeped in a mid-life crisis, and facing a life-changing decision; either to accept a safe, career-climbing position managing employee benefits plans in Phoenix, AZ or finally do something more risky, interesting, and purposeful.  

Ten years before, I voluntarily counseled patients and families at St. Paul’s Hospital in Dallas and found it very rewarding. I’d also read a series of popular
“self-help” books written by Dr. Jess Lair. Jess had quit a successful career at 35, went to graduate school, became a psychologist, taught classes at Montana State University, and published books. He wrote with great humor and wisdom, and many of his musings revolved around the great time he was having in Bozeman. 

And in that moment of
“what am I really going to do with my life,” I had an epiphany. Almost like a voice: “Go to Montana State and get a Master’s degree in counseling.” Followed by, “Or, go to Las Vegas and become a card dealer.”

So, I cold-called The Graduate School at MSU and was directed to Dr. Carmen Knudson-Martin and Dr. Dale Brotherton, both professors in the Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) program. As it happened, there was one seat open for the 1990 fall semester and they urged me to come to Bozeman right away to interview for it. I wasn’t the only candidate and flew up the following week.

Dale and Carmen had developed an all-day interview and orientation itinerary for me; a chance to shadow them, sit in on classes, see the campus, and meet MFT graduate students. Three weeks later, I was accepted into the program and moved my wife and toddler to Bozeman.  We spent the month of August settling into the “pioneer life.” If you’ve never lived in Montana but often wondered what that must be like and now find yourself living there, then you know what a spectacular and glorious thrill it is.

I couldn’t wait to start learning how to give lots of advice to people with problems, a lame-brain notion that Dale and Carmen would eventually disabuse me of.  And I thought graduate school was going to be fairly easy, too. After all, I’d read all the Jess Lair books and was seasoned at giving unsolicited advice. 

And then classes started! I learned real fast that Dale and Carmen, in spite of their
“niceness,” had set high expectations. I was being killed with empathy and academics all at the same time and starting to understand how much I didn’t know. 

I met some of the finest people of my life there. The symmetry between faculty and graduate students was fluid and honest. It was an environment that encouraged disagreement, independence, and play. Dale and Carmen taught us how to think like a marriage and family therapist. They grounded us in systems theory and observed our client sessions, which we videotaped. No two people influenced the kind of clinician I’d eventually become like they did, something I remain grateful for today.    

Carmen and Dale started nudging me to go for a Ph.D. after graduation. Obligingly and grudgingly, I applied and was accepted into the doctoral MFT program at Michigan State University. I knew how hard a Ph.D. program could be and braced for full impact at Michigan State. But it wasn’t as impossible or as intense as I imagined and certainly nothing I couldn’t handle after two years at Montana State. It took me a bit longer than average to graduate, but I hung in there and earned my Ph.D.

Since then, I’ve held executive and clinical positions that have been extremely satisfying and sustaining (e.g. Executive Director of the North Carolina Fatherhood Initiative, Executive Director for the State of Ohio’s Employee Assistance Program, and the Clinical Supervisor for Family Services, Inc.). I’m currently in private practice counseling soldiers and military families at Ft. Bragg, N.C. and have just started a consulting and research business, Olive Branch Resolutions, to assess the needs and outcomes of combat veterans across a broad spectrum of supports and resources.  

My spirit never left Montana (I actually cried when I had to leave) and my prayer is to get back someday. When I do, maybe I’ll pick up where Jess left off. But, I’ll never forget the exquisite memories or how vividly my life changed after one phone call to the MSU Graduate School in 1990. I wish I could do it again!"