Stuart Mellon had planned the date of his May 2020 retirement from the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona for a long time, but he never liked it when people would tell him he had to “make a plan” for when he was no longer working.
“I wanted to push the pause button for a while,” says Stuart. “I’ve been running like this my whole life, but I didn’t expect the world to join me when I pushed the pause button.”
Stuart had served for 25 years as the president and CEO of the Federation. Before that, he was CEO of the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley in Tucson and campaign director at the Jewish Federation of Baltimore in Maryland.
It was while in Baltimore that he met who he considers his primary mentor, Marty Waxman. Marty is now 90 years, old and when Stuart told him that he was retiring, he had some sage advice.
“Don’t let the talents that you have developed all these years go to waste,” Marty told him during an email exchange. ”Whether you’re getting paid or not getting paid, find a way to keep staying engaged.”
Around the same time, Stuart was asked to moderate a session for Tucson’s Festival of Books. He enjoyed preparing for the session so much he realized that he needed to do something to keep connected to the community.
He then asked himself, “What do I want to do? What do I love to do?” He came up with two distinct areas.
“I very much enjoy working with donors helping them facilitate their philanthropy,” says Stuart. He explains that some donors are very engaged with their philanthropy directly, and others prefer to be a little bit more “behind the scenes” and have someone doing the leg work for them and making sure that their funding is being spent the way they want it to be. Generally, these are people who are doing a substantial amount of philanthropy each year.
The other thing is being a mentor to less seasoned professionals. “I’ve been working with someone for quite a while, and I’m continuing to work with him,” says Stuart. “He’s the CEO of a nonprofit in town and doesn’t have the many decades behind him that I do.”
In July, Stuart launched stuartmellon.com and began offering his services as a nonprofit and philanthropic advisor.
“My aspirations are not to build a full-time business, I want to have a much different pace,” he says. “I’m networking more broadly in the general community, and if I can be helpful in the Jewish community, I will. I think you have an obligation to move out of the way of the people who have stepped into your shoes, and I’m trying to do that.”
Stuart is being recognized for his contributions throughout the years to the Jewish community with a couple of events this fall.
On Oct. 22, the Tucson Hebrew Academy will be honoring Stuart and his wife, Nancy, at their 2020 Tikkun Olam Celebration. This event will be an online presentation.
In November, Stuart will be honored and thanked in person by the Federation with a “drive-by” celebration at Rillito Racetrack in Tucson.
“I hope people don’t get tired of feting the Mellons twice,” jokes Stuart.