A part-time teller job at DATCU started UNT alumna Melanie Vest down a historic career path.
Written by: 
Lisa Sciortino
Photography by: 
Ahna Hubnik

More than two decades ago, Melanie Vest ('04) saw a job posted in the UNT Career Center for a part-time teller at DATCU's downtown Denton branch. At the time, she could not have predicted that applying for and landing the position would mark the beginning of a career in which she would go on to become the first woman ever to serve as the credit union's president.

Nor could Vest have guessed that she would someday play a significant role in establishing a partnership between UNT and the financial institution that would lead to the Mean Green playing football in what is now DATCU Stadium.

Sitting at her desk at DATCU's headquarters in Corinth, Vest pondered what her younger self -- then Melanie Arender, a junior who worked at the former 12-lane, drive-thru branch most afternoons and on Saturdays -- would say about the professional success she has since experienced.

"She would feel like God's hands were all over it," she says. "I think that she would be proud of herself."

Vest grew up in Santa Rosa, California, where her late father worked for an accounting firm and her mother was employed at a savings and loan. She frequently visited her parents' workplaces and "fell in love" with the banking industry, especially "the quaintness of a community bank."

After completing her sophomore year at Sonoma State University, north of San Francisco, where she ran on the track team and majored in business, Vest and a friend applied and were accepted to the National Student Exchange Program. It provides students with two-semester, study-away opportunities at member colleges and universities throughout North America.

Enamored with Texas -- as a child, she regularly visited her grandparents in Waco -- she chose to spend her junior year at UNT, which formerly participated in the program.

It wasn't long before Vest settled into her room at the former College Inn and began building social connections, particularly through a popular weekly faith-based program sponsored by Denton Bible Church.

It was at an event there that she first saw her classmate and future spouse Zack Vest ('04). The couple's first date in October 2001 was a Mean Green football game at the former Fouts Field. During the Spring 2002 semester, she began working for DATCU at what was then its sole Denton branch. "That's where I fell in love with this place," she recalls. After completing the student exchange program, Vest transferred to UNT, switched her major to sociology -- "I've always loved community and people," she explains -- and, in July 2002, wed her husband.

Upon returning from her honeymoon, DATCU offered Vest a full-time, entry-level position in its accounting department, which she worked around her class schedule.

Melanie and Zack Vest

She and Zack, who also earned his bachelor's in sociology, graduated together in December 2004.

Over the years, while climbing up DATCU's ranks, Vest has held roles throughout the credit union -- from accounting to human resources to loan processing and others -- prior to joining its executive team in 2014 as executive vice president, chief financial officer. She was promoted to president in 2021.

Vest learned a valuable perspective about the credit union's daily operations by working alongside many of the employees she now oversees. She frequently visits DATCU's branches to socialize with and mentor its team members.

"People most of the time just want to know, 'Will you take a walk in my shoes?'" she says. "I have walked in their shoes. I have done their jobs. I don't know how I would do this job without that."

Vest is also heavily involved in the communities that DATCU serves. She spent six years on the board of directors for both the Children's Advocacy Center for North Texas, which provides services to abused children, and Serve Denton, which partners with nonprofits to improve accessibility to services for those in need.

Despite her many personal and professional commitments, Vest and her family still find time to attend UNT events, especially Mean Green football games. In fact, she keeps a framed photo beside her desk of the family posing with Scrappy at the stadium on its 2011 opening day.

When she read a 2023 newspaper article about UNT's search for a new naming rights partner, she immediately contacted DATCU CEO Glen McKenzie about setting a deal in motion. While entering into the partnership was "100% a business decision" for DATCU, Vest says she brought "a different perspective to it" as a UNT alumna.

"I am a product of the school," she says. "I know the impact this university has on a community."

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