The Shipley Magazine

Melanie Chia-Yu Sze ’65: Finding Joy in Learning & Adventure

Leigh Green
From teacher to librarian, paralegal to artist, Melanie “Mel” Chia-Yu Sze ’65, has lived many lives. Now a contributing photographer for National Geographic, Sze spends much of her time documenting her travels across the globe. This spring, Sze and her lens will journey through the Galapagos Islands, Munich, Kiev, and Odessa. Her photography reveals a joy found in learning and adventure that’s characteristic of her exceptional career.

Sze’s family emigrated from Shanghai in 1948 when she was just one year old. Her father parlayed a distinguished banking career in China into high-level economic consulting and a professorship in the U.S. He impressed upon his daughter the merit of quality education. “My dad emphasized to me that everything can be taken away from you except your education,” she says. “Shipley started me on a road to see its real value.”

It was a coincidence that brought Sze to Shipley. At a dinner party one night her parents had a chance encounter with two women who had taught them in China. Margaret Bailey Speer and Augusta Wagner were now Heads of The Shipley School and invited Sze to enroll.

While attending Shipley, Sze immersed herself in just about everything. She fondly recalls pottery, dance, theater, and a particular class trip to Washington, D.C., where she photographed cherry blossom trees. Unbeknownst to her, she’d unearthed a passion she would return to many lives later. 
As one of Shipley’s most loyal donors, Sze supports the quality education that laid the groundwork for her remarkable career. As a lifelong learner and ceaseless adventurer, she exemplifies the power of such a foundation.

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The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.