Melissa F. Lewis-Western: an Inspiration for Generations to Come
By Viking Voice Page Editor Jillian Sasaki
Melissa F. Lewis-Western is a remarkable woman. Growing up in Kingsburg, she was known as Melissa Price and she had many achievements in both the academic and athletic fields.
Though she was born in Visalia, CA, Lewis-Western was raised in Kingsburg and she can be considered a hometown hero simply by the way she has represented the community.
Growing up in the country near her grandparents, she enjoyed her childhood. She participated in 4-H and enjoyed raising sheep and cows, but she also had other ambitions.
“Even when I was young, I knew I did not want to farm or live on a farm,” Lewis-Western reminisced.
What she chose to pursue would reap benefits in her later life. Her siblings and she were all athletes. She gained the most inspiration training in track with her high school coaches, Dave Crass and Jack Garcia. The two, according to Lewis-Western, sacrificed time to coach their pupils which was crucial in developing her talents.
During her freshman year, a girls’ league for pole vaulting didn’t exist, so she decided to run hurdles instead.
As a sophomore, Lewis-Western began pole vaulting, and soon those around her knew that she was onto something. In that same year, she won the CIF State Championships paving the way for future generations of female athletes. Then, in the following year, she repeated her State victory.
Even from the small town of Kingsburg, it was clear Lewis-Western was quickly emerging as a rising star on a broader field. In fact, she went on to win the 1994 and 1995 National Championships while still being a Viking. Then, her skills took her to Russia where, at only 16, she placed 7th in the St. Petersburg Goodwill Games.
Originally her plans were not set in stone. “I wanted to go to a university and have a professional job. I was not sure precisely what I wanted to do, but I was certain that I would go to college. I also hoped that I would be able to do sports in college,” Lewis-Western explained.
Luckily, Lewis-Western continued to pole vault at Fresno State and she is considered a pioneer since women’s pole vaulting was so new.
“Sports were great at Fresno State and I loved competing,” Lewis-Western stated.
She earned the title of the NCAA pole vaulting champion in both 1998 and 1999. This all allowed her to join the likes of Rafer Johnson in the Fresno Athletics Hall of Fame. Not only that, but she was also inducted into the USA Track and Field Pole Vaulting Hall of Fame.
Beyond the sporting arena, Lewis-Western is also an accomplished professor with an impressive education backing her.
While at CSUF Sid Craig School of Business, Lewis-Western earned Bachelor’s degrees in both Science and Accounting. Then, at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business in Bloomington, IN, she earned a Master’s of Business, with emphasis in Accounting and Finance, which led her to earn a Ph.D. in Business Administration, all major academic feats in their own right.
After moving from her first job as a professor at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Lewis-Western is currently an Associate Professor at Brigham Young University located in Provo, Utah.
The list of her accomplishments and awards are seemingly endless; however, she is now living happily in the Crossroads of the West, Salt Lake City, with her beautiful family, which she says is the biggest testament to her hard work.
“My life is so much better than I could have imagined. I am married to the best man that I know (Marc Western) and we have two beautiful children. Life has not been perfect, but I have learned from every experience. I am thankful for the good times and the struggles as they have helped to refine me. I hope that I am more kind and patient now then I was in the past,” Lewis-Western shared.
Despite now living in a completely different state, her roots are still tied to the Valley. Her brother Brian Price lives in Kingsburg and her sister Angela Cho is currently living in Visalia.
Many seemingly successful people often plateau, but not Western. She still strives to achieve greater things, “Not only do I believe that I can reach new heights, but I expect to reach new heights!”
Melissa F. Lewis-Western has accomplished so much since her upbringing in Kingsburg, and her ability to strive for even greater goals is impressive. Finally, her commitment to excellence in both athletics and academics is a valuable inspiration for Kingsburg Vikings making her this month’s Viking Valor recipient.