Melinda Spitzer

Degree: Bachelor of Arts in Women’s & Gender Studies

College: College of Arts, Sciences & Education

It’s never too late to achieve your dream of getting an education, as Melinda Spitzer, 66, demonstrates.

Melinda, a first-generation college graduate, began her college journey at age 18. Her life’s circumstances meant she had to take classes little by little. Throughout her adult life, much of her time was spent heavily involved in the lesbian and feminist movements. Following the Stonewall Riots, New York was a hotbed of protests in which Spitzer was a “proud participant.” She volunteered at the historic “Lesbian Switchboard,” a peer-run hotline in New York.

She was an active member of The Gay Activist Alliance, the Lesbian Feminist Liberation, and many more. She remains an active member of the lesbian-feminist community in Miami. Over the years, she has mentored many lesbian and gay youth in the community and beyond.

At age 53, Spitzer was diagnosed with the same spinal disease as her father, which can cause temporary paralysis. She has undergone five spinal operations, the most recent in July 2019. Her condition required her to retire from her previous position as a senior technologist of mammography at Mercy Hospital. But it turned out to be an opportunity to pursue her true dream–to combine her experience in mammography and passion for women’s issues.

Melinda’s surgeon limited her to one class per semester and no summer classes, but she worked closely with FIU’s Disability Resource Center and her faculty mentors to conquer these challenges and complete her education.

She first enrolled at FIU in 2008, graduated in spring 2020–Summa Cum Laude and as a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society–and will celebrate at commencement in Spring 2021. After graduation, Spitzer plans to work at a non-profit organization that supports patients with breast cancer. 

By Morgan Hughes
Junior Media Relations Specialist
Division of External Relations, Strategic Communications and Marketing

Nominated by Yesim Darici