Although Mike Melo (’79 B.S. forestry) never worked directly with trees after earning his degree, he has relied on the analytical skills and the values he developed through the rigorous training in the forestry program every day since. “College should teach you to think critically, analyze information, and make reasonable decisions, and Virginia Tech taught me all of that,” he said.

After graduation, Melo joined the Navy, where a plan to spend roughly four years in service turned into a 23-year career. “People used to joke with me because I went to school for forestry and then ended up going to sea,” he recalled. “The path I took in life was different from what I thought it would be, but my academic work challenged me to think and digest information, whether I was working as a Naval officer or running a business. It’s been a key element in my ability to do my job.”

Shortly after retiring from the Navy, Melo started his own company, ITA International, providing analysis planning, curriculum development, and training for U.S. Department of Defense customers, including the Navy, Coast Guard, and Marines. The company, based in Yorktown, Virginia, also provides engineering solutions for the Navy and Coast Guard, including equipment acquisition and maintenance services.

“I was a one-man show when I first started, but now we employ over 300 people, and I really get to focus on providing the culture and vision for the company and make sure the employees and the customers are happy,” Melo said.

The name ITA International is derived from a passage in a 1910 speech by Teddy Roosevelt referred to as “The Man in the Arena” in which Roosevelt lauds those who work hard and demonstrate values of leadership, integrity, and hard work rather than simply sitting on the sidelines. According to Melo, his company is built on the principles of service outlined in Roosevelt’s speech and taught at Virginia Tech. “Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) captures the essence of the Hokie Nation and of my career,” he said. “All of my work has been about service, from the Navy to owning my own business, which is all about serving those ‘in the arena.’”

In addition to serving those who serve, Melo has made a point of serving future Hokies through annual donations to the college and membership on the Dean’s Advisory Council, of which he serves as chair. “I loved my time at Virginia Tech,” he said. “It was a great experience and it provided me with the tools to be successful. Through donations and service on the council, I’ve been able to share my experience in growing a successful company and help the college continue to grow its academic programs and provide students both a top-notch academic background and research experiences. I’ve had a lot of people help me throughout the years, so now I’m just paying it forward.”