Melissa Proctor
1974 - 2016
1974 ~ 2016
Our dear Mary Melissa Proctor died unexpectedly September 10, 2016 in Salt Lake City, Utah from causes incident to a recent surgery. She was born in Chicago, Illinois on January 22, 1974, the eldest child of Philip Lyle Ward and Maurine Jensen Proctor.
Her early loves were books and music. Starting at the age of five, Melissa studied Suzuki violin and performed widely for friends and family and often in church. An avid reader and writer, Melissa was also involved in spelling bees and writing contests as a student in elementary and junior high school.
In high school Melissa was active in choir and played the lead in school musicals like The Fantastiks. She was on the high school debate club for two years where she placed first for her debating skills. She loved spending time in the mountains singing around the campfire with her friends.
As a college student at Brigham Young University she discovered an easy facility with languages and studied German, Hebrew, Arabic, and Japanese. In her sophomore year, she spent a semester studying abroad in Israel and Egypt. Melissa served an LDS mission in Tokyo, Japan and taught Japanese at the Missionary Training Center upon her return.
More than anything, Melissa was passionate about learning and pursued her education at some of the top schools in the country. She studied Near Eastern Studies at Brigham Young University, Hebrew Bible at Yale Divinity School, moral philosophy and religious thought at Brown University, religion and social theory at Princeton University, and constitutional law and legal history at Harvard Law School. In law school, Melissa worked at the legal aid clinic in Boston to help low-income victims of domestic violence.
Melissa loved teaching and was happiest engaging her students in the classroom. A scholar of religion, she developed the first class on Mormonism that had ever been taught at Harvard Divinity School. Melissa also did teaching stints at the College of the Holy Cross and most recently at Utah Valley University where she taught religion, ethics, and the law.
Since returning to Utah two years ago, Melissa worked as a research analyst at the Utah Foundation and in public policy at the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition. Addressing the prevalence of domestic violence in Utah was an issue that was personally important to her. Melissa was a tireless champion for policies to benefit women and children such as equal pay for women, paid family leave, and universal preschool.
Melissa is survived by her parents Maurine Jensen Proctor and Scot Facer Proctor and ten siblings: Laura Hodges (Scott), Eliot Ward (Angie), Julie Montoya (David), Lucas Proctor, Rachel Tomsick (Jeremy), Andy Proctor (Stacie), Thomas Proctor, Truman Proctor (Tina), Mariah Scoresby (Bryan) and Michaela Proctor. She also has 18 nieces and nephews. She is preceded in death by her father, Philip Lyle Ward, her grandparents Virginia and Lyle Ward, Paul Dean Proctor, and Maurine and Joel P. Jensen.
She has long requested to have no funeral at her passing. In her honor we have created a scholarship fund through the Womens' Success Center at Utah Valley University to offer women the support they need to complete their degree. Please click here to donate:
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Published by Deseret News on Sep. 15, 2016.
No memorial events are currently scheduled.
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37 Entries
Reminiscing about your beautiful and amazing daughter Melissa, on this the four year anniversary of her passing through the veil. Remembering the fun high school times she shared with our daughter Tiffiny and the many times she was in our home. Such a joyful light she carried everywhere with her. Our love to you, her parents and extended family.
Mike and Lorraine Pinnell
September 10, 2020
I am so sorry.
Elaine Weinkauf
September 9, 2020
Love and happiness forever
Marilyn Willis
September 9, 2019
I know this isn't recent but I have just heard the news and I am so very sorry for your loss. It was a privilege for me to be Melissa's companion in the Tokyo South Mission in 1995 and I learned so much from her. I had to work to improve myself very quickly with her as she had such high expectations and set extraordinary goals. I had never met anyone so passionate about life until I met Melissa. I'll never forget our first Pday in the grocery store she stopped at the green, yellow and red peppers and held one up to her nose and said "Aren't these peppers just gorgeous? Don't they just make you happy? I think I must have helped create these in the pre-earth life because they just bring me so much joy." I remember thinking "Wow, all this love for a vegetable, I really need to step up my appreciation for the simple beauties in life." Another sweet memory I have is of a beautiful white shirt she wore. I always told her how much I loved it and I knew it was one of her favorites. A few weeks after she transferred to a new companion I saw her at a zone conference and she handed me a bag and a letter and told me to open it at home. When I got home she had written me the sweetest note thanking me for being her trainer and included it with the shirt as a gift for me. I cried happy tears and felt so loved and appreciated. She showed me such love and friendship. Even though her life was shorter than I would have hoped, I know she accomplished and felt a great deal more than some do in much longer years. Rest In Peace beautiful Melissa!! You are loved!
Kathryn Olsen (Sorensen)
March 10, 2017
I am a graduate of holy cross and just learned about Melissa's death through the holy cross magazine. she was so young I couldn't believe that it was actually an obituary. Upon reading about her and her career and her interests she seemed like an amazing woman. My heart goes out to her parents and her family.
Stephen Najemy
January 10, 2017
I am so, so sorry to read of Melissa's passing. I can't believe it. I knew her when I was a fellow at Princeton. I was just referring to her work when talking with a student and thought I would see what Melissa was doing. She was a wonderful person, tireless in her pursuits, and generous with her time. She is deeply missed.
Susan Ridgely
December 13, 2016
I studied with Melissa under Jock Reeder at Brown University. She was such a beautiful, unique person. First person, I believe, to ever teach a class about LDS at Harvard Divinity School. No words can express such loss.
Curtis Hutt
November 7, 2016
I am so sorry to hear about Melissa's death. She was a Fellow with me at Princeton's Center for the Study of Religion, and then worked as my TA here at Lutheran for a semester. She was simply a wonderful human being, and the light in the cosmos is dimmer for her absence.
Jon Pahl
October 28, 2016
Dear Scot and Maurine,

How does one express the shock and grief felt when one such as Melissa passes away? We are still so saddened by the loss of your beautiful daughter.

What wonderful memories we have of the many times Melissa was in our home as she and Tiffiny shared high school experiences. It was a joy to be around her.

Without the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, this loss would be unbearable. With the gospel, it is still so incredibly painful, but at the same time the promise of the resurrection and reunion you will have with Melissa brings joy and solace. And then to think of all the reunions she is having with those who have gone on before...!

We send our condolences, prayers, and love to all of you.

Lorraine and Mike Pinnell
Lorraine Pinnell
October 13, 2016
Steven J Pitts, husband of Geneen Richardson Pitts (deceased) and his family send their love to your family. We know how painful loss is, even though we know it is temporary. Our mother, Geneen, really admired Maurine and faithfully followed your magazine. We so appreciated how you both came to Geneen's funeral and how thoughtful Scott was to take pictures there. We love you and your family. May God bless and comfort you during this hard time.
September 22, 2016
We cherish our memories of Melissa and her remarkable talents and abilities. She experienced an extraordinary life in a relatively compact span of years. We express our condolences and best wishes to the family as you mourn her passing. May the Lord bless you and keep you in this hour of sadness. Laura & Royal Hansen
Royal Hansen
September 21, 2016
Scot and Maurine,

We're so sorry for your loss. Our prayers are with you and your family--may God's peace comfort you all.


Todd and Carrie Brotherson
September 20, 2016
I knew Melissa when I lived in Boston. She was so beautiful, brilliant, kind, and sweet. The world was a better place with her in it; may she rest in peace.
Cecile Shellman
September 20, 2016
I had the honor of overlapping with Melissa in New Haven and again in Boston. I loved her Sunday school lessons, her brilliance, her kindess. She was such a beautiful person, inside and out, a force of nature as someone else wrote. I am so saddened by her loss and pray for peace to her family.
Susan Hoki
September 17, 2016
Maurine and Scot - We are sorry to hear of your loss. Our thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family.
David & Carol Best
September 16, 2016
Melissa was intelligent, thoughtful, and funny. Several times she offered me excellent advice about something I was trying to think through. I will miss her, and my heart feels for her family who will be bereft.
James Faulconer
September 16, 2016
We are so sorry at your loss. We knew Melissa at Yale and so admired her. This breaks our hearts. What a beautiful legacy she left. Sincerely, Travis & Lisa Seegmiller
September 16, 2016
I am absolutely speechless! As I read Melissa's obituary, I found her accomplishments, her intellect, her scholarly pursuits, and her loving spirit to be profoundly inspiring. Her passion for serving low income victims of domestic violence and addressing the prevalence of domestic violence in Utah were especially resonant for me as was her love of teaching.

Melissa's request to forego a funeral and to be honored instead by a scholarship fund through UVU's Women's Success Center is truly the act of an incredibly generous, wise woman.

On behalf of everyone at the Women's Success Center, please know of our profound sadness at losing this lovely soul from this earthly realm. Our gratitude is immeasurable as this gift will continue to educate women and transform lives in Melissa's memory.
Peggy Pasin,
September 16, 2016
Maureen, it sounds like your daughter was incredibly talented like her mother and stepfather. We send you heartfelt condolences to you both. It is so hard to loose a loved one, especially one of your children.
Michael and Joan Madsen
September 16, 2016
Michael and Joan Madsen
September 16, 2016
Dear Scott and family, I am so sorry for your loss. Hope you have the comforting spirit to be with you. Love, Lynette Jensen Moore
September 16, 2016
Remembering apple-picking with Melissa in Bishop's Orchards and a snowy Christmas together in New Hampshire, as well as many passionate grad school conversations about teaching, religion, and books. I was so very sad to hear this news and will be keeping Melissa and her family in my prayers.
Briallen Hopper
September 16, 2016
I am so very sorry for you...I pray for your family...
Many blessings!
Margarita Kras-Germany
September 16, 2016
Maurine, I am very sorry for your loss. May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow.
Susan Cahoon
September 15, 2016
The path of Melissa's life crossed mine in elementary school and then again in graduate school. I cherish the sweet memories I have of her and of her many gifts. May God's peace be with her family and with all who mourn her passing.
Jonas Anderson
September 15, 2016
I cannot imagine your heartache at the loss of this wonderful daughter. She was a blessing good to many. Love and prayers for you and your family.
Laurie Sowby
September 15, 2016
May Heavenly Father comfort and give you peace.
Marilyn Willis
September 15, 2016
I never knew Melissa but I wish I had. She sounds like an amazing woman. I pray for her mother and father, family and friends. I know they will all be together again and what a wonderful comfort it is.
Marilyn Willis
September 15, 2016
Melissa was a force of nature. I knew her during her time in Boston. She was a passionate feminist and scholar and an amazing musician. Her passing is a loss to all whose lives she touched.
Katie Laughman
September 15, 2016
In comparison to others who knew her, my time with Melissa as a friend was very short -- only two years. In that time, I came to know her as a passionate, brilliant woman who strove to take down institutional barriers that prevented women from being their most exceptional selves. Melissa embraced the talents that her Maker afforded her and lived a lifetime and a half in her short time on this earth. Her light and unforgettable laugh will be greatly missed. With heartfelt condolences to her loved ones.
Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck
September 15, 2016
May God bless your family with many happy memories of your sweet daughter. I love you guys.
Elaine Weinkauf
Elaine Weinkauf
September 15, 2016
Melissa was an extraordinary scholar, writer and documentarian. She generously shared her research and insights with me and other journalists. I am so sorry to hear of her passing. Condolences to her family.
Laurie Goodstein
September 15, 2016
Michelle Swim
September 15, 2016
Condolences to all who loved this amazing and accomplished woman. We're so sorry for your loss.
Clay and Penny Linford
September 15, 2016
What an amazing woman! She accomplished so much in her life! We are thinking and praying for all of her family and friends who will miss her so dearly!
Stephanie Sitze
September 15, 2016
I will miss your laugh and smile at the family gatherings. You were loved by all your cousins.
I hope you are enjoying the reunion with Nana and Papa and my dad...
Jolene Wolstenholme
September 15, 2016
You will be missed by all of your family, dear Melissa. We hope you are having the best celebrations with Nana and Grandpa and our other loved ones who preceded you. Until we meet again.
Truman Proctor
September 14, 2016