NEW ALBANY — For Norm Melhiser, serving Southern Indiana has been an integral part of his life for many years, whether it's through his work as an accountant or his service in civic and community organizations.
Melhiser, a Certified Public Accountant and community leader, was recently awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from Personal Counseling Service, a faith-based mental health facility in Clarksville. He received the award, which bears his own name, at the agency's annual benefit on Aug. 15.
Doug Drake, president and CEO of Personal Counseling Service, said Melhiser is an "icon" in the community. He served on the agency's board since 2008, and as well as owning his own CPA business, he has been involved in a number of other boards throughout the years, including the Southern Indiana Chamber of Commerce, the Horseshoe Foundation's investment committee, Floyd Memorial Hospital Foundation, and the Board of Advisors at Indiana University Southeast. He also served on the Indiana Gaming Commission.
"The one thing that stands out the greatest is that he has become a huge advocate for mental health and mental wellness," Drake said. "He's the best ambassador that an agency could have. He promotes and encourages people if they have any issues, whether they are marital issues, depression, anger, domestic violence — no matter what it is, he encourages them to see a therapist and get some help and get healthy again."
The award was a surprise, and when Melhiser heard the announcement at the dinner, he was both caught off guard and honored to be recognized.
"It means so much," he said. "Number one, I don't realize I'm that old to have a lifetime achievement award. But when I think about, it, I am. It's just so amazing...it's hard to put into words how much I feel."
Melhiser graduated from New Albany High School, and he was stationed at Fort Knox in the United States Army in 1958 to 1960. In 1967, he founded his own CPA practice, which eventually became Melhiser, Endres & Tucker, and it merged with Rodefer Moss & Co in 2008. He has also taught accounting at IUS, and he received the Chancellor’s Medallion for service to the university.
He said when he started his own business, he wasn't "all caught-up with making the big-time money" — it was about helping others and making the community a better place.
"I had a tendency to be able to pick up clients," he said. "It's something I just can't explain except that people took an interest and felt that I was interested in them and their business, not my pocketbook. And I was — I was interested in helping these people and getting their businesses going, and they appreciated that."
Personal Counseling Service has played an important role in Melhiser's life, and in addition to serving on the board, he has helped Personal Counseling Service to refine its financial reporting. He particularly appreciates how the agency has helped out children who are struggling with mental health through services such as counseling, therapy dogs and music therapy, saying it makes "all the difference in the world" to put confidence in their lives.
He and his late wife, Joyce, have made philanthropic contributions throughout the community over the years, but it was not for recognition, he said.
"We just did this because we thought it was the right thing to do," Melhiser said.
This isn't the first time that Melhiser has been honored by Personal Counseling Service for his work in the community — the award ceremony was named the Norman Melhiser Samaritan Awards Dinner 11 years ago because of his contributions to the community, Drake said.
"We thought, well [the awards ceremony] needs to be named after someone who exudes exactly what we believe in — that's authenticity, moral standards and ethics — and he's it," he said.
Drake said Melhiser is a humble man who puts others first, and he demonstrates integrity through his work.
"I've seen him on the business side, I've seen him as a board member and as a friend now," he said. "I've watched interactions that he has. He's one of the very few people that if he makes a mistake, he apologizes. He just really takes responsibility for anything that he's involved in."
For Drake, it was meaningful to give the Norm Melhiser Lifetime Achievement Award to his friend and mentor. He said the award was "the only one that we gave, and it will be the only one we will give."
"For me personally, it meant that I could recognize somebody who's not only been an integral part of this agency but a true blessing to me as an individual," he said. "Norm is like family, and it was like giving a family member this grand award. And it made me feel good because he wasn't just involved with this agency because what he's done for this community — what this one person has done for this community has just been outstanding."