As the IUPUI men’s basketball team prepares for an upcoming game at its new home — Indiana Farmers Coliseum at the Indiana State Fairgrounds — Bud Melton (BS’73) steps out onto the newly painted court. He is reminiscing about the program’s initial milestone.
“When I was in school, IUPUI had an intramural basketball program on campus. Then, the university announced it was going to form the first official, varsity IUPUI basketball team,” Melton says. “I thought, ‘I can do this.’ I can complete my studies — my degree was my first priority — and play college basketball for the IUPUI team.”
That was in 1972. Melton was a member of IUPUI’s first varsity men’s basketball team — nicknamed the “Metros” to reflect the school’s urban setting. IUPUI changed its mascot to the Jaguars shortly after the school moved to NCAA Division I in 1997.
“I’m very excited to be standing right here, on this court, as I reflect on IUPUI and its basketball program,” Melton says, admiring the gleaming new court. “Back then, we played our home games at the Chatard High School gymnasium. The Coliseum is a long way from Chatard.”
It’s also a long way from Melton’s time on the court to the sum of his successful business career. After completing his sophomore year at IU Bloomington, with the Vietnam War looming, the Evansville, Ind., native elected to enlist in the U.S. Air Force. Four years later, having served in Okinawa, Thailand, and South Vietnam, Melton returned home with a burning desire to resume his business studies and complete his college education.
“When I returned to Indiana, all my friends were here in Indianapolis. IUPUI itself was just getting under way in earnest, so I decided to enroll here instead of returning to Bloomington,” Melton says. “The classes and the schools seemed to be pretty much equal. I was a little older and little clearer on what I wanted to do, and I was very committed to earning my business degree.”
Melton graduated with a degree in finance from the Kelley School while playing basketball for the newly formed Metros. He felt that his years as a student-athlete instilled him with skills that made him competitive with employers. After commencement, Melton had several options as a new business graduate.
“I received great job offers,” he says. “Maybe partially it was because I was older, having four years under my belt in the military. Employers also understood I was a student-athlete, and that meant I understood the time management skills needed to do the job and the discipline and focus to work until it was complete. I ultimately accepted a position with First Indiana Bank.”
That first job at the bank would lead to a long career with the company, culminating in Melton’s ascent to president and CEO, titles he held at First Indiana Bank for 25 years.
An early moment that helped shape Melton’s career came from a mentor at the bank who pushed him to be tenacious. Melton was prodded to perform at a higher level than everyone else. It was a tough challenge, but one that taught Melton a lesson of the value in hard work.
“I always tried to do more than the next guy,” he says. “When I was a young loan officer — long before there were personal computers — I would type my loan applications at home, in the evenings, using a typewriter on the kitchen counter. Everybody else turned them in handwritten. I always thought that if they were typed, they were going to be read more carefully than ones that were handwritten. I always wanted to go that extra mile.”
Melton worked diligently at First Indiana and, eventually, was able to climb from management trainee to the corner office. He attributes his success to working harder and smarter, while deploying everything he learned in business school.
“At Kelley, I learned how to think on my feet and work through mathematical equations on the spot. In my job, I always had analysts asking me about earnings per share and performance projections. I had to be able to think quickly through the math and be able to defend it. It was important to understand that I couldn’t put our shareholders at risk by saying something that was unrealistic or that I wouldn’t be able to achieve.”
Then-bank chairman Bob McKinney invited Melton to join him in Washington, D.C. to work at the Federal Home Loan Bank Board during President Jimmy Carter’s administration. For three years, Melton worked long hours as McKinney’s chief of staff before returning to banking in leadership roles first in Chicago, then in Ohio, and, finally, back home in Indiana as president and CEO at First Indiana.
“Washington was an incredible experience that probably catapulted my career more than anything else,” says Melton. “Again, the dedication I learned as a student-athlete served me well in that role because the demands of the position required I arrive at work every day at 7:00 a.m. and stay until 7:00 p.m., six days a week. Most Sunday afternoons were also spent in the office. Everyone at my level in Washington, D.C., worked those kind of hours to serve their country, and I was prepared to compete.”
Melton believes so strongly in the value of preparation that he volunteers as a “SophWiki” mentor at Kelley Indianapolis. The SophWiki (Greek for “the beginning”) program pairs Evening MBA students with business leaders, who serve as professional mentors. Melton works mainly with students focused on finance, and he stresses how important it is to differentiate themselves in the business world.
“Our Evening MBA students are amazing,” says Melton. “I have introduced my students to some of the most successful business leaders in Indianapolis, who are absolutely stunned at how sharp these Kelley students are. One student I worked with already had five patents on inventions. Some engineering students are working on their second graduate degrees. They’re doing things for their companies that were unheard of when I was at their age, and they’re really moving forward. The type of graduates the Kelley School is producing today is just phenomenal.”