McDonnell Douglas seamstress funds UCI graduate fellowships in engineering

Bequest creates the Melucci Space Exploration & Technology Fellowship

Irvine, Calif., Nov. 26, 2013 – Ida Melucci, a seamstress who worked for McDonnell Douglas and then Boeing, has left a bequest of $1.5 million to UC Irvine’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering to create graduate fellowships.

“We are honored that Ida Melucci entrusted us with her gift to continue to support and enhance the education of graduate students working in space exploration and space technology,” says Gregory Washington, engineering school dean. “We have researchers working on the Rover guidance system for landing on Mars, on electric propulsion for space craft, as well as people looking at combustion and structures. This gift will be put to good use.”

The Meluccis were both long-standing and dedicated employees of the Huntington Beach aerospace company. The late William Melucci worked in sealing and bonding. Ida Melucci worked on space blankets for the Delta rocket, missile bags and insulation blankets for the Space Station, and slip covers for cargo boxes carrying high-tech space tools on the Endeavor space shuttle.

“My aunt was very proud of working in the aerospace industry and with engineers,” said Julie Weisert. “She had very little formal education, but appreciated that the engineers consulted her and acknowledged her work. I think that’s why she decided to donate her money to support engineering education at UC Irvine.”

Ida Melucci learned to sew from her Italian-born mother, a master garment maker. She and her husband lived a modest life in Garden Grove. William Melucci died 20 years before his wife, who worked well into her 70s. The William and Ida Melucci Space Exploration & Technology Fellowship will provide graduate support in perpetuity in the memory of the couple.

About the University of California, Irvine: Located in coastal Orange County, near a thriving employment hub in one of the nation’s safest cities, UC Irvine was founded in 1965. One of only 62 members of the Association of American Universities, it’s ranked first among U.S. universities under 50 years old by the London-based Times Higher Education. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UC Irvine has more than 28,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $4.3 billion annually to the local economy.

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