Jay N. Miller Correspondent
Darby Melia was a standout ice hockey player at Thayer Academy before heading off to Brown University
MARSHFIELD – Darby Melia will miss hockey, and certainly has regrets that the pandemic took away her senior season at Brown University, but she’s been going full speed ahead on her academic pursuits, and has future plans that will keep her plenty busy.
Marshfield resident Darby Melia (10) just wrapped up her college hockey career at Brown University.
If the Ivy League’s suspending all sports for the winter season took away Melia’s eagerly awaited senior season with the Bears, she continued the outstanding academic achievement that earned her spots on the ECAC All-Academic Team each of her seasons at the Providence school. In fact this year she topped it off by being nominated and eventually a finalist for the ECAC’s prestigious Mandi Schwartz Student Athlete Award. An athlete from Cornell eventually won the award, but it was still another notation of the way Melia has been able to balance her academic and athletic careers in equal measure.
Melia is a Marshfield resident who graduated from Thayer Academy, where she was a standout on the hockey, field hockey and track and field teams, all while compiling a sterling academic record. Elected a three-year captain of the Thayer girls hockey team, she was an All ISL (Independent Schools League) selection twice, a Patriot Ledger All Scholastic, and the ISL Most Valuable Player.
In her junior year, Melia played in all 29 of Brown’s games, scoring four goals with an assist during that 2019-2020 campaign. It was her luck to be there just as Brown embarked on a rebuilding effort, so the Bears were a disappointing 3-23-3 that year, but an influx of substantial youthful talent boded well for this winter, which made it all the more frustrating when the Ivy League pulled the plug on all sports.
“Even though we didn’t have a season, we were able to get on the ice with the team,” Melia reported, by phone from her Providence digs. “Our freshman players got here in January, so we got to watch them and work with them, and I just loved their work ethic. Without being able to play, my role changed to that of a mentor to the underclassmen who will be coming back next year. We seniors tried to show them the right way to do things on and off the ice, and show them how to represent Brown University. So it was definitely disappointing not to be able to play, but I am excited about what’s ahead for the Brown women’s hockey program.”
“I’m just proud of my whole team at Brown,” Melia added. “Even if we couldn’t play games, everyone still kept showing up, everyone was in the gym every day, and all of the veteran players did all they could to welcome the freshman players into the program.”
One wrinkle in the pandemic situation that robbed many college athletes of their seasons is that the NCAA has made it easier for players to utilize an extra year of eligibility, so theoretically Melia could return to Brown.
“Yes, that extends to the Ivy League, which this year for the first time has said that we can take a fifth year,” said Melia. “I could do that, earn my master’s degree, and play another year, but I have already accepted a medical assistant’s position at the Greater Boston Gastro-Enterology program in Framingham. That is what I wanted to do, in an area I wanted to focus on, and to help me get into medical school. It’s a gap-year type of program, designed to be taken between your undergraduate years and medical school, where you can get direct clinical experience, and do research, and get mentoring by the best people in that field. I’m really excited to get started there.”
Coming from Thayer Academy, Melia was used to topflight competition, and she loved the Ivy League brand of hockey, even if the scoreboard wasn’t kind to the Bears in her last (junior) year.
“Oh I would’ve loved to play another season,” Melia said. “I really enjoyed all three years playing at Brown. My favorite part was the players and coaches. Even if we were rebuilding, everybody was just so determined to improve and supportive of each other. I was always 100 percent sure I made the right choice to come here. Whether in the weight room, the classroom, or the extra curriculars, It always knew that I was among a team of painfully intelligent women capable of achieving great things, and I was so proud to be around them. And looking ahead, we have a very talented freshman group that is really going to help this team improve.”
Away from the rink of course, as a Biology/Pre-Med major, Melia had a formidable class load. Yet she handled it with rare aplomb, as her many academic records prove. Clearly she must have extraordinary self-discipline and time management skills.
“I think my time at Thayer Academy made a huge contribution to that, because they prepared me so well,” said Melia. “As far as having to be a good time manager, Thayer did so much to foster and develop you as both a student and athlete, I really have to give them a lot of credit. I was a Peer Advisor for a couple years at Thayer, helping younger kids realize how to manage their time and academics. And now I’m doing the same thing at Brown. But no doubt, Thayer was integral in my development as both a student and athlete, and I am very grateful for that.”
Melia developed an interest and devotion to volunteering at Thayer, and that has also carried over to her college years. She’s done most of her volunteering lately at the Lawrence A. Aubin Child Protection Center, at Hasbro Childrens Hospital in Providence, where the focus is on treating and helping victims of child abuse.
“I volunteered in the children’s emergency room for a while, and then I moved on to just the general emergency room,” Melia noted. “I would say that volunteering at the Aubin Center has been probably my best experience. It’s really great to be able to help kids like that, and of course I have an interest in pediatrics anyway.”
So with her pediatrics interest, and her upcoming stint in the gastro-enterology facility, has Melia set her sights on any particular medical specialty?
“I am keeping my mind open to all the specialties,” she said. “Right now, I just want to soak up as much as I can.”
The Brown community and the city of Providence certainly offers some intriguing options for collegians looking for some fun, and after her four years there, did Melia enjoy her time there?
“Oh, I absolutely love the Brown, and Providence community,” Melia said with a chuckle. “Brown has such incredibly gifted students and faculty, and we also are able to enjoy some outreach into the Providence community. Recently in fact, we have been involved with starting a community outreach program to help expand awareness and access to the vaccine. We’re focusing on educating the public about the vaccines, and where to get them, and trying to help get the word out, especially among people who are not English speakers.”
And Melia as busy as she is, still finds some time for scratching that old hockey itch. She spent some time this winter “helping a bit” with the Thayer girls team.
“It was kind of a case of coming full circle I guess,” said Melia. “But I found it very rewarding. And I am so excited – I keep coming back to this – with the big freshman class we have coming into Brown. Their work ethic and leadership is off the charts.”
And the rest of us can rest assured, Melia knows about work ethic and leadership.