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In This Issue


Mel Hambelton championed higher education by supporting Wichita State students

Mel Hambelton
Mel Hambelton

Mel Hambelton led a life most people would describe as successful: a 57-year marriage, rearing five children, enviable business achievements.

Despite that success, he regretted not having gone to college and earning a degree. Recognizing the value of higher education, Mr. Hambelton and his family supported Wichita State University in various ways for more than 30 years, primarily through his automobile dealership, Mel Hambelton Ford.

Mr. Hambelton died March 22 at the age of 81, with his family by his side.

“He was a man who fulfilled many of his dreams, but he always said he wished he had gone to college,” said Mr. Hambelton’s daughter, Lisa Hambelton. “By providing cars for Wichita State to use, he felt like he was making it possible for the university to spend its money on students instead of on that. He wanted every kid who wanted a college education to be able to get it.”

When her own son, Tyler, graduated from Wichita State in 2013, Ms. Hambelton knew how proud her father would have been. His poor health prevented him from attending commencement.

“As I sat there watching my son get his degree, I wished so much that my dad could have been there to see it,” Ms. Hambelton said.

In 2012, the Hambelton family created the Mel Hambelton Endowed Scholarship at WSU to help deserving students pay for their educations. Ms. Hambelton, who took over as president of the dealership in 2008 and owner in 2011, said she wanted to continue the philanthropy her father had begun more than 30 years ago. Mel Hambelton Ford was known for providing cars for the athletic staff and to the Shocker Wheels Club, as well as support for other university entities. The dealership was recognized as a WSU Foundation President’s Club Life Member in 2013.

Mr. Hambelton started in the car business in 1958, rising through the ranks to become a dealership general manager. He owned multiple new and used car dealerships in the 1970s, including Import Volkswagen. In 1984, he opened a Ford dealership with partners Rusty Eck and Grant Davis, buying them out in 1989. He also owned, at various times, a part or all of several other dealerships, not only in Wichita, but also in Hutchinson, El Dorado and Mulvane.

In 2002, Mr. Hambelton moved his Ford dealership from North Broadway to a large new space at 119th West and Kellogg.

Mr. Hambelton is survived by Beverly, his wife of 57 years; his daughter, Lisa; his sons Mark, Kurt and Eric; and his 13 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his son, Jeff Hambelton, and his parents, Mannie and Virginia Hambelton.