MURRAY, Ky. — The Murray State University Alumni Association is excited to present Dr. Melvin and Rita Henley as the grand marshals for Homecoming 2018: Field of Dreams. The couple will be honored as a pivotal part of the Homecoming Parade on Oct. 27, which begins at 9:30 a.m.
“With big dreams and passion, Melvin Henley has never let anything get in his way,” said Carrie McGinnis, director of alumni relations. “He is man of integrity and ambition, always seeking to put the needs of others above himself. We are beyond pleased that he and his wife Rita will be honored as this year’s grand marshals.”
Melvin and Rita are the epitome of what it means to bleed blue and gold, according to McGinnis. Melvin has spent more than 50 years of his life on Murray State’s campus and fell in love with the University and greater community at a young age as a student at Murray Training School, which eventually became University High.
Right after high school, Melvin set off to join the U.S. Air Force. Ambitious in all that he did, he quickly rose to the position of personnel sergeant major and became a strong leader all while being one of the youngest in the group. After serving in the Air Force, Melvin returned to his hometown in August 1961 to complete his undergraduate career at Murray State with majors in physics, chemistry and math. He ultimately obtained his PhD in physical chemistry and a minor in physics from the University of Mississippi in August 1964 before beginning to teach as a professor in Murray State’s chemistry department.
Outside his academic success, Melvin has held major leadership positions within the community of Murray. Those achievements include serving as mayor of Murray and as a Murray City Council member. He also served as a state representative for Kentucky from 2005 to 2012 and on the Murray State University Board of Regents in addition to holding leadership positions on multiple Murray State University Foundation boards. Melvin was also president of the local Chamber of Commerce for three terms and has held leadership positions within the Chamber from 1982 to 1991.
“He’s had a very interesting, full life and can do more in a day than most people could do,” Rita said. “He’s like the energizer bunny — he never stops.”
Melvin is a jack of many trades, from serving in the Air Force to having owned his own business, HenleyCorp. In 1966, Melvin started his mobile home business that first began as a simple favor to help a family member who needed a place to stay. He started with one trailer in his backyard, added another and added another until it grew into what it is today: Fox Meadows Real Estate.
“He would jump off the tractor, put on a suit and go to a meeting then come right back and jump on the tractor,” Rita said.
Melvin considers one of his greatest accomplishments being overwhelmingly voted Murray-Calloway Citizen of the Year and Murray-Calloway Boss of the Year, he said.
“You could sum up my experience in one sentence: from sharecropper to successful businessman with a few stops along the way,” Melvin said.
Currently, Melvin is serving a second term on the Kentucky Postsecondary Education Nominating Committee, a position appointed by Gov. Matt Bevin.
Rita herself also graduated from Murray State, earning her degree in geology in 1978. It was while Rita was completing work with the chemistry department that she first crossed paths with Melvin. One day, while in the chemistry office, Rita and Melvin discussed how she was going to buy a U-Haul truck to take some of her things to her mother’s for a time and, conveniently, Melvin had a truck that he offered to Rita. From there, the rest was history.
“It was meant to be, and I couldn’t be happier,” Rita said, “It’s been a good ride. There has never been a dull moment.”
The two married in 1984 and have enjoyed every adventure along the way over their three decades of marriage.
“We are soul mates,” Rita added. “We make a good team.”
In honor of all that Murray State has given them, the Henleys have two scholarships in their name: the Melvin B. Henley Training School Scholarship, which is open to descendants of anyone who was a teacher or student at Murray Training College High or University School, as well as the Melvin and Rita Chemistry Scholarship for junior or senior chemistry majors.
“We’ve always been big supporters,” Rita said. “It’s important that you help others and give back.”
In the past few years, Melvin and Rita have taken time to put family first, which includes frequent traveling to places all over the world. They have visited China, Russia, Peru, England, Spain and have been all over the United States.
The Murray State Alumni Association invites alumni and friends to join the Henleys in celebrating Homecoming 2018 on Oct. 25–27 on the campus of Murray State. The Homecoming Parade featuring the Henleys will take place Saturday, Oct. 27, at 9:30 a.m. Coverage of the parade will be streamed live for those who cannot attend on the University’s Facebook page at facebook.com/murraystateuniv. For more information about the activities surrounding Homecoming weekend, please visit murraystate.edu/homecoming or call the Office of Alumni Relations at 270-809-5600.